JAPAN | Saga gov. may have sparked e-mail scandal

Posted on August 1, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI SHIMBUN | 1 August 2011 

Remarks by Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa about the business community’s acceptance of resuming operations at a nuclear power plant may have resulted in a number of Kyushu Electric Power Co. employees sending e-mails in support of the idea to a public forum in June, according to a third-party panel on the matter.

Furukawa held an emergency press conference Saturday about the case, which involves the proposed restart of nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Genkai power plant in Genkaicho, Saga Prefecture.

At the press conference, Furukawa said he met with three Kyushu Electric executives several days before the forum, and told them he believed it was “necessary to have voices in the business world that favored restarting the reactors heard” during the forum.

Held on June 26, the forum was broadcast live on cable TV and the Internet. It was hosted by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.

Mamoru Dangami, then executive vice president of Kyushu Electric; Kiyoharu Otsubo, chief of the company’s Saga branch office; and Masatoshi Morooka, then general manager of nuclear power generation at the company, met with Furukawa on June 21. Afterward, the three executives agreed that e-mails in favor of restarting the reactors should be sent to the public forum.

On the next day, a midlevel manager at Kyushu Electric sent e-mails urging employees to send such e-mails to the forum.

The third-party panel established by Kyushu Electric to investigate the matter also held a press conference Saturday.

“There are grounds to suspect that [Furukawa’s remarks] sparked the incident,” panel Chairman Nobuo Gohara said.

At his press conference, Furukawa said: “I never meant to ask [Kyushu Electric] to send e-mails in favor of restarting the reactors. However, I believe my words were thoughtless and excessive.”

Kyushu Electric submitted a report to the government on its investigation into the matter on July 14. After learning the contents of the report that day, Furukawa said, “Kyushu Electric has no excuse for what it did systematically as a company with a direct interest in the restart [of the nuclear reactors].”

According to Furukawa and Gohara, the three Kyushu Electric executives visited Furukawa’s official residence on the morning of June 21. Dangami and Morooka’s purpose was to notify the governor that they were going to step down from their posts soon, and Saga branch head Otsubo accompanied them.

The four discussed the restart of the Genkai nuclear power plant’s Nos. 2 and 3 reactors, and the public forum.

Furukawa was reported as saying: “Some in the business world favor restarting [the nuclear reactors] to ensure a stable electricity supply. It’s important to use opportunities like this [public forum] to shed light on these opinions.”

After the meeting, Dangami instructed Otsubo to prepare a memo containing excerpts of Furukawa’s remarks. The memo was attached to an e-mail as a text file, and a midlevel manager of the power company sent the e-mail to about 100 employees. The excerpts said Furukawa had asked the executives to “send more supporting opinions [for the reactors’ restart] via the Internet.”

Kyushu Electric has known about the contents of the memo since the e-mail scandal was first reported in July. However, the power company did not reveal them to the public, or include it in the earlier investigation report it submitted to the government.

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