A consulting company that had submitted a report to a government panel stating that no new power plant was needed on Kunashiri Island rewrote the report and claimed the facility was of “great significance” following a visit by controversial lawmaker Muneo Suzuki to the island, sources close to the case said Saturday.
The consulting firm, Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International, submitted the first report in November 1998. Suzuki then visited the island to observe power generating facilities.
Five months later, in December 1999, the Foreign Ministry, which funds the activities of the panel, known as the Cooperation Committee, authorized the construction of the plant and ordered PCI to conduct the research again, the sources said.
Mitsui & Co. won the project with a 2.09 billion yen bid in March 2000 and the plant was completed the following November.
The sources suspect there may have been some pressure, possibly linked to Suzuki, placed on PCI to rewrite the report so the panel and the ministry could justify the work.
Suzuki, alleged to have excessively meddled in Foreign Ministry affairs, is elected from a constituency in Hokkaido.
Kunashiri is one of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan and are at the heart of a territorial dispute between the two countries. The Cooperation Committee is principally engaged in providing aid for the islands.
According to the sources, PCI said in its initial report the island did not need a new power plant. It based its findings on estimates that the existing facility had a generating capacity of 3,250 kw, while maximum electricity demand on the island was 2,700 kw.
A separate study carried out by Tokyo Electric Power Co. in July 1999 reached a similar conclusion.
Nevertheless, the ministry decided to go ahead with the facility. The Cooperation Committee then asked PCI to conduct another study on the project.
In the new report, submitted on March 21, 2000, PCI said the island needed a new power plant because electricity demand would reach around 3,500 kw within three years and the existing power plant was becoming obsolete, the sources said.
PCI officials admitted the firm changed the initial report based on the assumption the facility would be built because the aid panel asked it to do so. They added they do not know why the panel decided to build the facility.
The Cooperation Committee declined to comment on the findings because it said it is now looking into the case.
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