JAPAN | NISA asked Chubu Electric to manipulate public opinion

Posted on July 30, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 30 July 2011

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The agency tasked with regulating nuclear energy hoped to manipulate public opinion at a 2007 symposium on pluthermal generation at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, operated by Chubu Electric Power Co.

Chubu Electric officials, at a news conference July 29, said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) asked the utility to round up participants willing to comment favorably on nuclear energy at the August 2007 symposium. Ultimately Chubu Electric nixed the request.

Yoshinori Moriyama, a NISA official who attended the symposium to explain nuclear energy policy, said July 29 that the request was inappropriate.

However, he went on to say, “I understand a report was submitted today to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, but we haven’t seen the contents of the report and do not know what the facts in the case are.”

NISA’s primary task is to monitor operations at nuclear power plants. The ineffectiveness of the agency in preventing and dealing with the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is the major reason some in the government are calling for separating it from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to give it greater autonomy.

After receiving the request, Chubu Electric officials asked employees, subcontractors and local residents, including neighborhood association heads, to attend the symposium held on Aug. 26, 2007, in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, and sponsored by METI.

While company officials also wrote up drafts of positive comments that participants could make to pass out to residents, some within the company said such a move would be wrong and the idea was never carried out.

NISA officials made the request about a month before the symposium. In early August, Chubu Electric officials asked employees and subcontractors to take part in the symposium by sending out e-mails and bringing up the topic at meetings.

Also in early August, Chubu Electric officials again complied with the NISA request and wrote up a draft of positive comments to pass out to local residents. The draft included such comments as “How long will fossil fuel resources last?” and “Is the cost of natural energy sources higher than that of nuclear power generation?”

However, after discussions within Chubu Electric, the decision was made that asking residents to express a certain opinion would be legally dubious.

Chubu Electric officials informed NISA officials that they could not comply with the request to ask residents to make pro-nuclear power comments.

However, officials of the Hamaoka plant did ask about 10 local residents to express their honest views, even if they were negative about nuclear energy, because it would be more helpful to have the opinions of local residents heard.

There were no comments at the symposium that were similar to those included in the draft written up by Chubu Electric officials.

All the comments that were made expressed caution about nuclear power generation and the pluthermal program.

Of the 524 symposium participants, about 150 were affiliated with Chubu Electric.

Company officials said they never forced any employee to take part and that all participation was strictly voluntary. They also denied the possibility of manipulating what the Chubu Electric participants said.

The symposium was held to gain the understanding of local residents because in July 2007 approval was given to begin power generation at the No. 4 reactor of the Hamaoka plant by using plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel. The plutonium is mixed with uranium to produce plutonium-uranium mixed oxide.

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Posted in: JAPAN