Panel slams Kyushu Electric’s ties with Saga – Finds Government Manipulation

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An independent panel has confirmed government involvement in manipulating public opinion on nuclear power.

A panel investigating attempts by Kyushu Electric Power Company to manipulate public opinion on one of the firm’s nuclear plants has slammed the utility and a local governor for having dubious relations.

The panel was set up after workers at Kyushu Electric Power Company and its affiliates sent e-mails in favor of restarting 2 reactors at its Genkai plant to a meeting of local residents in June.

In its final report on Friday, the panel also confirmed 2 other cases in which government officials urged utility companies to offer opinions in favor of nuclear power.

The 2 meetings were one in 2008 for the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido and the other in 2006 for the Onagawa plant of Tohoku Electric.

It also cited back-scratching arrangements between the utilities and government organizations in charge of energy and nuclear safety issues, adding that they should have drawn a line at this.

Panel leader Takashi Oizumi, a former public prosecutor, said the organizations did not function properly and aroused public distrust in the government’s nuclear administration.

Saga Governor Yasushi Furukawa reportedly told Kyushu Electric executives before the meeting that opinions supporting such a resumption had to be aired.

The report says the governor’s instruction had a decisive influence on the emailing.

The panel also looked into a public debate hosted by Saga Prefecture in 2005 on a plan to use plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide, or MOX, fuel at the plant. Kyushu Electric had some of its employees attend the event and present opinions in favor of the project.

The report says Saga Prefecture probably urged Kyushu Electric to take such action.

As preventive measures, the panel has advised the firm to avoid contact with and making political donations to governors or mayors of areas hosting nuclear plants.

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