JAPAN | Saga governor apologizes over remark on Genkai power plant

Posted on August 3, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 3 August 2011

Saga Prefectural Gov. Yasushi Furukawa discusses restarting the No. 2 and 3 reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant during talks with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda at the Saga prefectural office on June 29, 2011. (Mainichi)

Saga Prefectural Gov. Yasushi Furukawa discusses restarting the No. 2 and 3 reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant during talks with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda at the Saga prefectural office on June 29, 2011. (Mainichi)

SAGA (Kyodo) — Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa apologized Tuesday for making a remark that could be interpreted as having prompted Kyushu Electric Power Co. to solicit e-mails in support of restarting reactors at the Genkai nuclear plant for a government-sponsored television program.

Furukawa told a news conference that the local government has received a number of e-mails in protest at his remark and that he is sorry for any trouble he may have caused to residents in Saga Prefecture.

Furukawa said he cited e-mail and the Internet as ways of expressing opinions about the nuclear plant at a meeting with senior officials of the Fukuoka-based Kyushu Electric on June 21, prior to the live broadcast of the local TV program on June 26.

Furukawa told Kyushu Electric’s senior officials at that time that there were people who supported the restart of the reactors in the business community and that there was a need to air such opinions.

But he reiterated Tuesday that he did not ask Kyushu Electric to stage the symposium by giving a false picture of public opinion, and said he would wait for the outcome of an investigation by a third-party panel established by Kyushu Electric before addressing the question of his own responsibility.

The governor also said he has withdrawn a plan to establish an experts’ forum intended to discuss the safety of the aging No. 1 reactor at the four-reactor Genkai nuclear power plant located in the town of Genkai, Saga Prefecture, facing the Sea of Japan. The No. 1 reactor with an output capacity of 559,000 kilowatts went into operation in 1975.

“As it is hard for the experts to work under the current circumstances, the prefectural government has withdrawn the plan,” he said.

Kyushu Electric says it attempted to give the impression that local people supported restarting two of the four reactors shut down for regular checkups by urging employees of Kyushu Electric and its affiliates to send comments in favor of the restart to the TV program via e-mail and fax.

Meanwhile, the Saga prefectural assembly said Tuesday it will convene a committee session on nuclear safety next Tuesday to look into the governor’s remark.

Committee chairman Hobun Kihara told reporters the committee session is needed to allow the governor to explain himself and help prefectural residents fully understand the matter.

Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe and Vice President Haruyoshi Yamamoto will testify at the committee’s next session Thursday, the assembly said.

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