Two now-former Kyushu Electric Power Co. executives, including an executive vice president, were involved in a ploy to have employees solicit supportive public comments during a June 26 industry ministry-sponsored event pushing for the restart of two of the utility’s reactors, company sources said Friday.
The revelation indicates executives of the utility may have been behind the bogus public support display.
Kyushu Electric has admitted an employee sent emails late last month to other employees and subsidiaries, asking them to post comments supporting the restart of the reactors for the event, sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, held to win over locals and broadcast live on cable TV and the Internet.
According to the sources, the executive vice president and other executives at that time asked a senior manager in charge of nuclear plants to send emails to let people know about the cable TV program. After being asked by the executives, the senior manager ordered a male employee to send emails to subsidiaries, the sources said.
On Friday, METI Minister Banri Kaieda urged visiting Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe to restore public trust.
Manabe told reporters after the meeting in Tokyo that his resignation is not necessarily the only option for taking responsibility for the matter, and that continuing to work to restore the company’s trust is “one way” of taking the blame.
But he reiterated that he cannot decide on his own whether to resign and must consult with the utility’s chairman, Shingo Matsuo, and others.
Matsuo on Friday returned to Japan from abroad earlier than scheduled, apparently to discuss the matter with Manabe.
Prior to the talks with Kaieda, Manabe visited senior vice industry minister Tadahiro Matsushita and apologized for the scandal.
The incident came to light at a sensitive time when the industry ministry was struggling to pave the way for the restart of two reactors at the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture that have been shut down for regular checks.
Matsushita told Manabe he is “extremely angry” about the incident and said, “I personally suspect that this case may have been conducted systematically.”