Utility planted ‘citizens’ to support restart of reactors

Kyodo

About 50 Kyushu Electric Power Co. employees and affiliates were involved in attempting to orchestrate an email campaign, posing as ordinary citizens, in support of the restart of its nuclear reactors on a government-sponsored TV program, according to an internal investigation by the utility.

The staged emails account for about a fifth of all supportive opinions received in the program aired in late June, according to sources informed about the investigation. The number of those involved may increase as the investigation is still ongoing.

At a special committee on nuclear safety of the Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly Monday, Akira Nakamura, at the time head of the utility’s nuclear power control department, said he was told by a supervisor to enliven discussions on the program, aimed at winning support for restarting two reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture.

Both Kagoshima and Saga are served by Kyushu Electric.

He thus instructed a subordinate to make the program known among other employees and affiliates. But while Nakamura neglected to follow up on the matter, the subordinate went ahead and asked others to post the comments.

The subordinate sent emails to three Kyushu Electric offices and four subsidiaries, according to the utility.

Sources at Kyushu Electric said the supervisor involved was then Executive Vice President Mamoru Dangami, who retired from the post in late June.

In his first appearance in front of reporters since the scandal broke, Dangami admitted to having issued the instruction to let employees know about the program. “Responsibility rests with me,” he said.

Nakamura had denied the existence of the emails when questioned by the committee on July 4, just two days before Kyushu Electric acknowledged the shenanigans in public. He told the assembly Monday he had not been aware of the issue back then.

The emails, revealed by an in-house whistle-blower, dealt a fresh blow to the credibility of the nuclear industry as it struggles with the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.