Kyushu Electric’s take ‘No Scandal, No Problem’ approach – Kyushu President to keep position – “It couldn’t be helped”

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — Kyushu Electric Power Co. angered industry minister Yukio Edano on Friday as it watered down a third-party finding that the Saga governor was behind a scandal of misrepresentation of public opinion on its nuclear power business in the region, in a final report on the problem.

“I wonder what Kyushu Electric thinks about the significance of the investigation by the third-party panel. It is a serious problem,” said Yukio Edano, minister of economy, trade and industry, referring to the fact that the report didn’t touch on Furukawa’s responsibility.

The Kyushu Electric final report, submitted to the industry ministry, also did not mention the responsibility of the prefectural government of Saga for similar attempts at a seminar in December 2005.

The report differs much from a late September report by an independent panel that Furukawa’s remarks before Kyushu Electric executives decisively affected the company’s attempts to manipulate public opinion over the restart of its idled nuclear reactors in a town meeting in June.

Following the Tohoku earthquake, Kyushu Electric voluntarily sought reapproval with the town of Genkai and Saga prefecture to make sure that there would be no objection to turning the reactors back on.

After the mayor of Genkai extended his approval, the larger consensus of Saga prefecture was sought. A meeting was organized to inform the people in the district and to get permission to restart the reactors. The meeting was broadcast live on TV and the internet, and viewers were invited to submit their opinions by e-mail or fax.

However was soon discovered that the board of the Kyushu Electric Power Company had specifically instructed employees of the plant to sent emails to this meeting with positive mails for the restart.

Later was admitted that not only employees of the utility but the workers of 4 affiliated firms too—more than 1,500 people in total—were involved in this.

Kyushu Report Distances Sage Governor From Scandal

On July 20, Shingo Matsuo chairman of Kyushu Electric Power Company announced that Toshio Manabe the president of the firm will resign to take responsibility for problems related to the utility’s attempts to win local approval for restarting two nuclear reactors, and the way in which the results were manipulated.

On July 22 industry minister Banri Kaieda made a comment, “that it is natural for a top official to take the blame“.

The board of directors’ planned a meeting on July 27 to decide about the punishments for the executives and other officials involved, and the date of the resignation.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. decided its top two executives will keep their jobs but their pay will be docked over a scandal in which the utility sought to manipulate public opinion in favor of restarting suspended reactors at its Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture.

 

“I cannot step down, based only on my individual judgment,” Manabe told journalists after submitting the report.

 

An independent commission investigating the scandal named Saga Prefectural Gov Yasushi Furukawa Committee chairman as the person who proposed that fake emails be used in the question and answer session.

In order to create the impression that there existed widespread public support for the reopening of the Genkai nuclear power plant, Furukawa allegedly told Kyushu Electric to use the Internet to submit messages purporting to be from members of the public agreeing to the plan.

In August, Furukawa told a news conference that a memo was drafted, but that it did not accurately represent his wishes. “The fact that the memo got circulated does not mean that I have to take responsibility for the scandal,” he told the media.

Kyushu Electric’s internal investigation revealed that, of 2,900 employees, 141 sent emails. It also found that Kyushu Electric’s Saga office had sent similar pro-nuclear emails to partners and that it asked employees at its subsidiaries and partner companies to attend a July 8 meeting for residents in the prefecture. The commission found that 63 employees of these companies were present at the meeting, constituting about 20% of the audience.

Previous Meetings Were Staged As Well

Following that revelation, the industry ministry ordered six electric power companies to conduct internal investigations of their PR activities and to report all activities aimed at winning local support for nuclear power.

An independent commission investigating the scandal named Saga Prefectural Gov Yasushi Furukawa Committee chairman as the person who proposed that fake emails be used in the question and answer session.

Concerning a public discussion meeting in December 2005 on the proposed introduction of the “pluthermal” nuclear generation technology at the plant, the utility admitted in the report that it had prepared “questioners” tasked with stating opinion in favor of the introduction.

Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe

Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe downplayed the significance of his company’s effectively ignoring the findings of Gohara’s panel, telling reporters, “It couldn’t be helped” that his company and the panel differ over the governor’s involvement in the scandal.

Kyushu Electric decided at an extraordinary board meeting on Friday to let Manabe stay at his post, after Manabe in July in parliament suggested he would resign. The utility announced a three-month salary cut for Manabe and Chairman Shingo Matsuo over the scandal.

Kyushu Electric submitted the report to the government the same day making no clear reference to whether the governor bears any responsibility for the problem, prompting Edano to brand it “out of the question” and say his ministry may urge the company to refile it.

An investigative panel headed by lawyer Nobuo Gohara said last month senior officials of Kyushu Electric tried to manipulate a state-sponsored TV program in June to make local communities appear supportive of restarting reactors at its Genkai power plant in Saga Prefecture.

Reactors on Site

All reactors at the Genkai plant use low enriched (3-4%) Uranium dioxide fuel.

NameReactor TypeFirst CriticalityPower RatingThermal PowerCore Tonnage# of Fuel AssembliesCapital Costs
Genkai – 1PWR1975/02/14559 MW1650 MW48 tons12154,500,000,000 yen
Genkai – 2PWR1980/06/03559 MW1650 MW48 tons121123,600,000,000 yen
Genkai – 3PWR1993/06/151180 MW3423 MW89 tons193399,300,000,000 yen
Genkai – 4PWR1996/11/121180 MW3423 MW89 tons193324,400,000,000 yen
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