14 Janvier 2015
January 14, 2015
KAGOSHIMA -- Two members of a 15-person Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly committee that approved the restart of Sendai Nuclear Power Plant have close family ties to firms hired by plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. to do construction work at that very power station, it has been learned.
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) assembly members Katsuzo Hokazono and Kaneoki Obata also both received "consulting" and "advisory" fees from these family firms. The companies have received at least 10 orders worth a total of some 170 million yen from Kyushu Electric since the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
According to construction records submitted to the prefecture and other sources, from May 2011 to March last year, Kyushu Electric contracted two construction companies run by Hokazono's son and nephew to do six jobs at the Sendai plant, including building a parking lot and waterproofing the area around sea water pumps. The firms, directly hired once and five times as subcontractors, were paid a total of 78.58 million yen. They were also hired by the utility to do work unrelated to nuclear power plants. According to income statements, Hokazono received consulting income from both firms until autumn 2011.
A construction company owned by relatives of Obata, meanwhile, took four work orders at the Sendai plant between January 2012 and June 2013, including jobs related to bringing safety measures up to new government standards for restart. All four jobs were contracted directly by Kyushu Electric, with a total value of 96.27 million yen. Obata was a paid adviser to the construction firm at the time.
The special prefectural assembly committee on nuclear safety approved Kyushu Electric's application to restart the Sendai plant reactors by a vote of 11 to 3 in November last year. Both Obata and Hokazono voted in favor, while Hokazono also argued stridently for the restarts during proceedings.
Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly political ethics guidelines state that sitting members "will not serve as executives at firms taking construction orders from the prefecture," but there are no rules regarding private companies like Kyushu Electric. The head of the prefectural ombudsman, however, stated that "for a company related to a prefectural assembly member, who must as a representative of the local government fairly consider nuclear restarts, to take construction orders (from the utility) must absolutely be viewed as a problem. This kind of behavior should be restricted by regulations."
When asked for comment, Hokazono told the Mainichi, "Construction work is completely unrelated to assembly deliberations."
January 13, 2015
By SATOSHI OTANI/ Staff Writer
Concerns over a potential conflict of interest have been raised in connection to two Kagoshima prefectural lawmakers whose family members run companies that have been given contracts at the Sendai nuclear plant, although no laws have been broken.
Katsuzo Hokazono and Kaneoki Obata were serving on the Kagoshima prefectural assembly’s special 15-member nuclear energy safety measures committee that approved a petition in November 2014 calling for the resumption of operations at the plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Eleven committee members voted in favor of the petition, while three voted against it. Hokazono and Obata, who voted in support of a restart, have relatives who operate construction companies that received contracts from Kyushu Electric Power Co. for work at the Sendai plant and elsewhere in the three years since the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster. Four companies with links to the two prefectural assembly members received a total of 26 contracts worth 290 million yen ($2.5 million).
Hokazono has been a strong proponent of resuming operations at the Sendai plant, saying on one occasion during a Kagoshima prefectural assembly session, "We must push forward with resumption of operations for the sake of national interests."
The two belong to the Liberal Democratic Party and are veteran assembly members, with Hokazono having won four terms and Obata five. Hokazono and Obata received remuneration from the companies in question.
The Kagoshima prefectural assembly has ethics guidelines that prohibit members from becoming executives at companies that win contracts for work commissioned by the prefectural government. However, because Kyushu Electric is a private-sector company, those guidelines do not apply. Moreover, Hokazono and Obata serve as advisers to the four companies, which are not considered executive positions.
The two said their family relationships and the work contracts did not factor into their deliberations and decisions on safety issues concerning the Sendai plant.
According to documents submitted to the Kagoshima and Miyagi prefectural governments, one of the firms is a construction company based in Satsuma-Sendai that is headed by Hokazono's older brother and nephew. Another company based in the same city is also headed by the older brother and Hokazono's son.
Those two companies received six contracts for work at the Sendai plant and another 14 contracts for work at other facilities operated either by Kyushu Electric or affiliated companies.
According to income reports and other documents, Hokazono served as an adviser to the two companies until autumn 2011, receiving remuneration.
In addition, in July 2012, Hokazono established and became the president of a construction company in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, about 1,200 kilometers from the Sendai plant. Hokazono receives about 350,000 yen a month in salary. That company received one contract from a Kyushu Electric subsidiary. It has also been involved in rebuilding projects in the Tohoku region that was devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The three companies with links to Hokazono received a total of 190 million yen in orders from Kyushu Electric or affiliated companies.
A relative of Obata also heads a construction company based in Satsuma-Sendai. Kyushu Electric gave five contracts to the company for work at the Sendai plant. The contracts were worth a total of 100 million yen.
Income reports and other documents showed that Obata served as an adviser to the company, where he also received remuneration.
The companies were involved in work at the Sendai plant such as replacing equipment and improving the facilities grounds. Some of the work was geared toward helping the Sendai plant meet the new safety screening standards established by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The Sendai plant was the first in the nation to receive approval from the NRA for a restart after meeting the tougher screening standards. The Kagoshima prefectural governor and prefectural assembly along with the Satsuma-Sendai mayor and municipal assembly have all given their consent to the resumption of operations.