JAPAN | Saga Pref. nuke safety committee head took donations from Kyushu Electric

Posted on August 23, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 23 August 2011

Saga Prefectural Assembly member Hobun Kihara speaks to reporters at the Saga Prefectural Office on Aug. 23. (Mainichi)

Saga Prefectural Assembly member Hobun Kihara speaks to reporters at the Saga Prefectural Office on Aug. 23. (Mainichi)

SAGA — A prefectural assembly member and chair of the assembly’s special committee on nuclear safety policy took 50,000 yen in donations from executives of nuclear plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co., it has been discovered.

Saga Prefectural Assembly member Hobun Kihara, of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), admitted to reporters on Aug. 23 that his political organization had accepted the donations from six Kyushu Electric executives in 2009. However, he said he has no intention of returning the funds or taking any other action over the issue as “there are no legal problems” with the donations.

Kyushu Electric and the Saga Prefectural Government have been under fire since allegations surfaced that the utility and Gov. Yasushi Furukawa colluded to manipulate public opinion in favor of nuclear power through staged e-mails to a TV program on the issue. As reported on Aug. 17, a source close to the company has also told the Mainichi that documents containing evidence of prefectural assembly members demanding perks and donations from Kyushu Electric had been ordered destroyed by a utility executive.

According to Kihara, in 2009 his political organization accepted 20,000 yen from the then head of Kyushu Electric’s nuclear operations division, 10,000 yen from the utility’s Saga branch office chief, and 5,000 yen each from four other executives including the Saga branch office’s assistant head and nuclear power section manager.

Kihara is in his fifth term of office. He was also chairman of the LDP prefectural chapter’s policy research council from 2005-2007, and secretary-general from 2009 to this past spring. He has been head of the prefectural assembly’s nuclear safety committee since May this year.

“Some people may object to my position right now just for the nature of that position,” Kihara told reporters, “but under the law there is nothing bad (about the donations).”

In this file photo, the Genkai nuclear power plant, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seen in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 7, 2009. (Mainichi)

In this file photo, the Genkai nuclear power plant, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seen in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 7, 2009. (Mainichi)

Meanwhile, a Kyushu Electric public relations official told the Mainichi, “Political donations are based on the private beliefs and concerns of individuals. They are therefore not restricted by Kyushu Electric, nor are they this company’s concern.”

The prefectural assembly’s nuclear safety committee was scheduled to request testimony on the e-mail scandal from three senior Kyushu Electric executives on Aug. 23, but proceedings fell into confusion when some committee members demanded Kihara explain the 2009 donations.

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