Kyushu Electric Power Co. drew fierce criticism Thursday for ordering employees of its group firms to send comments to a local television program supporting the restart of the utility’s two nuclear reactors at the Genkai power plant in Saga Prefecture.
The scandal over the government-sponsored program is likely to intensity the public’s antinuclear sentiment and deepen distrust in power companies, making it more difficult for them to resume operations of nuclear plants undergoing regular checkups nationwide.
The utility admitted Wednesday in a news conference its attempt to mobilize staff to send emails from home, distorting what was supposed to be an opportunity to gauge the feelings of local residents on nuclear power.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano slammed Kyushu Electric on Thursday, calling it “a truly outrageous and extremely deplorable act.”
“We are in a situation when not only the government but also power companies need to earnestly seek the understanding of the people over the safety of nuclear power plants,” Edano said.
The program, aired live June 26, was organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and aimed to seek the acceptance of local residents to reactivate the No. 2 and 3 reactors at the Genkai plant.
The program was the government’s first attempt to brief residents on nuclear safety measures since the March 11 quake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, but the fiasco is likely to make it even more difficult for the public to approve restarting idled reactors.
“To be frank, I think it will affect the resumption of reactors,” Edano said. “I think that Kyushu Electric will need to give further explanations to win the people’s trust over safety.”