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Insiders at public hearings, fake e-mail scams

March 28, 2013



Kyushu Electric made 150 insiders attend public hearing on nuclear policy in 2005



Kyushu Electric Power Co. had a total of 150 of its workers attend a government-sponsored public hearing on the country's nuclear energy policy guidelines in August 2005, it has been learned.

The 150 people account for more than 80 percent of the total number of people who attended the public hearing held in Saga, Saga Prefecture.

In what was called a "fake e-mail scam," Kyushu Electric was found to have urged its employees and other related people to send comments to a TV program supportive of restarting nuclear reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture in 2011. A Kyushu Electric spokesperson said of the latest case, "We think that the same thing as the e-mail scandal was done at the public hearing. We are reflecting on it seriously."

The public hearing was officially called the "public hearing to listen to opinions on a draft guideline for nuclear energy policy." The Japan Atomic Energy Commission sponsored such hearings at five locations across the country from Aug. 18 to 26, 2005, to incorporate citizens' opinions into the country's nuclear energy policy guideline. One of the hearings was held at a hotel in Saga, Saga Prefecture, on Aug. 22, 2005. Of the 21 people who stood up and expressed their opinions at the hearing, 11 were suspected to have come from Kyushu Electric, and therefore the Mainichi Shimbun tried to confirm it with the utility. The company consequently conducted an in-house investigation.

The probe found that all of the 11 people were Kyushu Electric's employees (one of them is currently a retiree), and most of them belonged to the company's Saga branch. Through its nuclear power department and public relations department at the company headquarters, the utility urged its employees and employees of its subsidiaries to attend the public hearing. According to internal data kept at the company, a total of 150 employees of the utility and its subsidiaries attended the hearing. That means that of the 179 people who attended the hearing, 83 percent were people related to Kyushu Electric.

The 11 Kyushu Electric employees expressed their views in favor of the draft guideline for the country's nuclear energy policy at the public hearing such as "Nuclear power is needed to maintain standards of living," and "There is no solution to the energy problem other than nuclear power." Kyushu Electric looked into whether the company had instructed its employees to express such views at the hearing, but there was no mention of whether such an instruction was given in the internal document prepared at that time. Kyushu Electric said it could not say whether the company had in fact instructed its employees to express such opinions because they said they "don't remember."

On top of that, Kyushu Electric acknowledged that the latest case was the same as the "fake e-mail" scandal. The utility commented, "With respect to our calls for our employees to take part in government-sponsored symposiums and so on, we regard it constitutes a lack of consideration of the intent of such events. We will ensure transparency of our corporate activities, improve our organizational climate and prevent a recurrence (of such misdeeds)."

In October 2005, the government adopted the country's nuclear energy policy guidelines at a Cabinet meeting. The guideline covering the next 10 years said nuclear power would account for 30 to 40 percent of the country's total power supply and the nuclear fuel cycle program would be promoted the way it had been.

The then president and chairman of Kyushu Electric resigned to take responsibility for the "fake e-mail" scandal in which the utility had urged its subsidiaries and its clients to send a government-sponsored TV program aired on June 2011 their comments in favor of the reactivation of nuclear reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture. Kyushu Electric was also found to have allocated prepared questions to its employees and had them ask the fixed questions at a public debate on "pluthermal" energy generation plans sponsored by the Saga Prefectural Government in December 2005.

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