Ex-official says shills sought for ’06 Shikoku MOX forum
A former senior official of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency acknowledged Tuesday that NISA asked Shikoku Electric Power Co. to have its employees attend a government-sponsored symposium on atomic energy in June 2006.
The official, who headed the office of nuclear safety public relations at NISA, which is under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said he asked senior officials at Shikoku Electric’s Tokyo branch to compel its employees to attend the forum and actively express their opinions.
But the official, who doesn’t want to be named, denied making substantial requests for remarks by the symposium participants.
The former official had retired from NISA before August 2007, when the agency asked Chubu Electric Power Co. to get local residents at a similar government-sponsored symposium to pitch questions favoring the utility’s goal to use “pluthermal” mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel.
This indicates NISA has continued staging events promoting nuclear energy, industry sources said.
The former official said he wished to avoid a recurrence of the 2005 symposium on nuclear energy in Saga Prefecture when government officials gave briefings completely in favor of nuclear power.
The official said he wanted participants to be able to express their opinions freely in open debate at the 2006 symposium over Shikoku Electric’s MOX fuel project.
The official also said he asked the Saga prefectural and municipal governments as well as local business officials to participate in the 2006 symposium on Shikoku Electric’s mixed oxide fuel project.
The official denied any intention of influencing the symposium, saying there are many people linked with Shikoku Electric’s Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture and that their voices should never be ignored.
With the official’s request, Shikoku Electric sent employees and others from its affiliates to the symposium and also asked subcontractors to have their employees attend.
The official retired from the agency in July 2007 and later served as an executive official at a METI-affiliated body.
Fifteen participants expressed opinions at the 2006 symposium, which was held in the town of Ikata, to discuss Shikoku Electric’s plan to use MOX in the Ikaka plant’s No. 3 reactor.
Ten of the 15 attended the symposium at the request of Shikoku Electric and some called for promoting the MOX project.
The agency is suspected of asking Chubu Electric to stage a similar symposium in connection with the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka Prefecture. A third-party panel soon to be created is scheduled to look into the allegations.
So far, seven power companies are known to have urged their employees and affiliated firms’ workers to participate in symposiums on nuclear energy, while three of them had local residents and employees pitch prepared questions and opinions at those events.
On Monday, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa acknowledged he made a remark that could have been taken as prompting Kyushu Electric Power Co. to solicit emails in support of restarting reactors at its Genkai nuclear plant for a METI-sponsored TV program.