3 Mai 2013
May 3, 2013
A member of the Cabinet Office's Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has repeatedly participated in events organized by a nonprofit organization backed by the electric power industry, it has been learned.
Etsuko Akiba, 64, occasionally missed JAEC meetings and used a government car to attend events mounted by the Asca Energy Forum NPO, where she also serves as an adviser. Asca Energy Forum has received heavy financial assistance from power companies and related organizations, and the latest revelations point to continuing close ties between Akiba and the NPO.
Akiba launched Asca in 2001 to conduct awareness campaigns on energy issues and other projects, and served as president until she was appointed to the JAEC in January 2010. The NPO has received over 18 million yen in donations from the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other power industry players since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in March that there is no problem with Akiba giving advice to Asca even though she is a JAEC member.
However, Akiba has participated in at least 14 events organized by Asca since she was appointed to the JAEC, according to the commission secretariat. Moreover, she used a government car to go to Asca events held in Tokyo on March 11, 2011, Sept. 28, 2012 and March 8, 2013.
Of the 14 events, 11 were Asca workshops on radioactive waste commissioned by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO) to win local understanding of the need to dispose of spent nuclear fuel.
Two others were social gatherings for workshop participants, and another was a study session on radiation. The JAEC secretariat said Akiba attended these events in her official capacity as a JAEC member.
Akiba also moderated workshops held in three prefectures including Aichi in 2012. She furthermore looked after guest speakers and guided other attendees during an Osaka workshop in January this year. In two other workshops held in Miyagi and another area, she was tasked with inviting guest speakers.
Furthermore, Akiba skipped JAEC regular and extraordinary meetings in order to deliver a speech during a meeting organized by an Asca affiliate.
Akiba admitted that she went a little too far.
"It became necessary to urgently dispose of radioactive waste following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, and I was more frequently asked by NUMO for help. I worked hard to coordinate opinions between NUMO and ordinary people, but may have gone too far," she said. "However, I went through the proper procedures for being absent from a JAEC regular meeting."
Chuo University professor Shuya Nomura, who served as a member of the Diet investigative panel on the nuclear crisis, criticized Akiba for skipping JAEC meetings.
"Full-time members of the JAEC are special civil servants, and are remunerated handsomely with taxpayers' money. They should avoid any act that could be interpreted as supporting certain organizations," he said. "It's inappropriate for members to be absent from meetings simply because the meetings have achieved quorum. They should cite reasons that the public will accept."