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ASCA & nuclear waste project

March 26, 2013


Atomic energy bigwig's NPO favored for nuke waste disposal project



A nonprofit organization set up by Etsuko Akiba, commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), has received exclusive orders from a government-authorized corporation for a nuclear waste disposal project she played a part in introducing, it has been learned.

The scheme -- called "high-level nuclear waste workshop project" and run by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) -- was deliberated on and introduced by a government energy committee when Akiba was a committee member before she joined JAEC. Her NPO group, ASCA Energy Forum based in Tokyo, has received exclusive orders from NUMO, a corporation authorized by the minister of economy, industry and trade.

Because NPOs cannot accept orders directly from NUMO, ASCA Energy Forum has received orders for the project by way of a third-party contractor. Despite a change in original contractors, however, ASCA Energy Forum has continued to receive the orders as a sole subcontractor. The amount of the order totals more than 140 million yen over the past six years.

The revelation comes in the wake of the disclosure that power industry entities such as Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan have extended large sums of money to Akiba's NPO.

The nuclear waste workshop project was brought forth after the Kochi Prefecture town of Toyo withdrew its application in April 2007 for a feasibility survey for setting up a nuclear waste final disposal site in the town following residents' protests. In November that year, the nuclear waste subcommittee under the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy's Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy recommended the introduction of the project, citing the necessity of creating a venue for learning about nuclear waste disposal at grass-roots level. At the time, Akiba was serving as a member of the nuclear waste subcommittee and supported the project initiative, stating at a meeting in September that year, "I was disappointed at the Toyo town's withdrawal. I want public relations for the entire nation to be enhanced." At the time, Akiba was also doubling as a member of NUMO's committee for adjusting disclosure of information.

According to NUMO and other sources, the project was launched in February 2008 and was on a free contract basis with planning competitions among two to five corporate applicants a year until fiscal 2010. Although NPOs cannot apply, the ASCA Energy Forum joined hands with the Japan Productivity Center (JPC), a public interest incorporated foundation, to receive the order, with JPC serving as an original contractor and ASCA as a subcontractor. In fiscal 2011 on the heels of the Great East Japan Earthquake, JPC and ASCA were jointly awarded the project order without competition.

After JPC withdrew from energy projects in fiscal 2012, ASCA teamed up with an advertisement company in Tokyo, with the latter successfully bidding for the project at some 40 million yen.

Under the project, the original contractor secured venues for workshops on nuclear waste while the NPO solicited participants through its networks and took charge of event proceedings. According to sources close to ASCA, it received some 10 million to 20 million yen a year in operating expenses.

"Basically, the project utilizes the networks of NPOs. Because JPC had affiliations with ASCA, we received its application for the project," said a representative of NUMO. Asked why ASCA continues to exclusively receive the orders, the representative said, "It is possible that past achievements are taken into account during screening. The ad agency (that participated in the fiscal 2012 bid) may have also thought it would be able to carry out the project with confidence if it teamed up with ASCA."

Meanwhile, the secretariat of ASCA Energy Forum said, "There were no advance consultations or prearrangements with NUMO." Akiba has declined to respond to interviews by the Mainichi.



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