TOKYO (Kyodo) — A former senior official of the Japanese government’s nuclear safety agency on Tuesday acknowledged that the agency asked Shikoku Electric Power Co., one of the country’s 10 regional power companies, to mobilize its employees for a government-sponsored symposium on nuclear energy in June 2006.
The official who headed the office of nuclear safety public relations at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, told Kyodo News that he asked senior officials of Shikoku Electric to make its employees attend the symposium.
The official said he called in senior officials of Shokoku Electric’s Tokyo branch to his office prior to the symposium and asked them to make employees attend the symposium and actively express their opinions.
But the official denied having made any substantial requests for remarks by those symposium participants.
The former official retired from the nuclear safety agency before August 2007 when Chubu Electric Power Co. was asked by the agency to have local residents pitch questions favoring the firm’s mixed oxide fuel project, called “pluthermal,” at a similar government-sponsored symposium.
This indicates that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has continued staging events related to 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 and anti-nuclear power residents condemned the government together.
The official said participants should express their opinions freely in an open debate at the 2006 symposium over Shikoku Electric’s mixed oxide 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 over 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 power plant in Ehime Prefecture and that their voices should never be ignored.
Upon the official’s request, Shikoku Electric sent its employees and others from its affiliates to the symposium and also asked subcontractors to make their employees attend it.
The official retired from the nuclear safety agency in July 2007 and later served as an executive official at a METI-affiliated body.
A total of 15 participants expressed their opinions at the 2006 symposium which was held in the town of Ikata, Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku, to discuss Shikoku Electric’s plan to use mixed oxide fuel at the Iktaka plant’s No. 3 reactor.
Ten of the 15 attended the symposium at the request of Shikoku Electric and some of them called for promoting the mix oxide fuel project.
The agency is suspected of asking Chubu Electric to stage a similar symposium over the Hamaoka nuclear power plant. A third-party panel to be created shortly 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 e-mails in support of restarting reactors at its Genkai nuclear power plant for a government-sponsored television program.