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Make sure the voices of Fukushima people are heard

July 16, 2012



Nuclear energy hearing disrupted by presence of power company official



SENDAI (Kyodo) -- A government-sponsored event in Sendai to listen to citizens' views on future energy and environmental policy was temporarily disrupted Sunday after a ranking official of Tohoku Electric Power Co. was found to be among the nine speakers chosen and expressed what he said was the company's view in support of nuclear power generation.

The event was the second in a series of hearings to sample public views on the government's three options for nuclear power generation in the country's future energy mix -- 0 percent, 15 percent or 20-25 percent. It was the first held in a city ravaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The official, the head of the planning department that plays a central role in the utility's business strategy, expressed support for the 20-25 percent option, saying, "I will speak by summing up the thoughts of the company."

An uproar ensued among the audience with one person asking, "Hasn't the choice of speaker been manipulated?"

The hearing was temporarily suspended. Nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono intervened to calm the audience.

The Tohoku Electric official told reporters after the hearing, "The company has taken steps to stem manipulation. I applied (to speak) in the capacity of a private citizen."

The speakers also included three individuals from the Tokyo metropolitan area rather than from the disaster-hit region, a choice critics said could anger people in the region. Hosono said selection of the speakers was "totally random."

According to the secretariat, 105 people applied to speak at the event on Sunday, and around 70 percent of them wished to express views supportive of the zero nuclear option.

Hosono stressed the need for fairness in selecting speakers but expressed displeasure that a Tohoku Electric official was among the speakers at the event. "Organizations can present their policies in various forms, so it is best that we hear the views of individuals as much as possible," he said.

Referring to the Aug. 1 hearing in the city of Fukushima, Hosono said "efforts are necessary to ensure the voices of people in Fukushima Prefecture are heard," suggesting the speakers will not include employees of power companies or those from outside the prefecture.

July 16, 2012(Mainichi Japan)


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