JAPAN | Saga Gov. sought local assembly members’ help over restart of Genkai nuclear reactors

Posted on August 6, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 6 August 2011

Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa (Mainichi)

Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa (Mainichi)

Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa urged Kyushu Electric Power Co. to prod prefectural assembly members to back the restart of reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant, the Mainichi has learned.

According to Kyushu Electric officials, Furukawa also requested e-mails in favor of restarting the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors of the power plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, ahead of the broadcast of a central government-sponsored TV program on the power plant in June.

The officials said the governor’s request appeared in a summary of his remarks prepared by Kyushu Electric executives.

The memo says Gov. Furukawa urged the utility to ask his supporters to contact Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) prefectural assembly members who had received messages of concern from voters about the nuclear power plant. He also proposed soliciting opinions and questions in favor of restarting the reactors via the Internet before the TV program.

The Saga governor also stressed the need to carefully promote the restart of the reactors. He pushed to have the local chamber of commerce and industry’s executive director and an ordinary viewer — as opposed to representatives of the anti-nuclear camp — as participants in the TV program. He furthermore cited Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s behavior as a possible risk associated with the central government, according to the Kyushu Electric summary.

Furukawa met with three Kyushu Electric executives, including a vice president, at his official residence in Saga on June 21, five days before the broadcast of the TV program. During the meeting, the governor also requested that the business community offer an opinion in favor of the restart of the reactors.

In response, the vice president asked the utility’s Saga branch manager to produce the memo, which was relayed to the head office of Kyushu Electric’s nuclear power division and attached it to an e-mail sent to about 100 employees.

Gov. Furukawa denied soliciting such e-mails during the meeting, and Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe defended the governor, saying the scandal over the TV program — widely viewed as an attempt to manipulate public opinion in favor of putting the Genkai reactors back on line — was not triggered by the governor’s remarks but “inaccurate documents” prepared by Kyushu Electric officials.

The memo mentioning the selection of participants in the TV program and other details, however, show Gov. Furukawa’s aggressive efforts to realize the restart of the idled reactors.

When asked by reporters about his purported remarks in June, Gov. Furukawa said after delivering a speech in Karatsu on the morning of Aug. 6, “I don’t know on what basis you are posing such a question.” He said at a news conference on Aug. 2 that he has not seen the memo prepared by Kyushu Electric.

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