Panel confirms fix was in at nuclear public meetings


Staff Writer

An independent investigation panel has confirmed that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency asked utilities in at least three cases to mobilize their employees for government-sponsored symposiums on nuclear power and express supportive or neutral opinions.

According to an interim report by the panel disclosed Tuesday, NISA made such requests for three symposiums to explain to nearby residents the use of plutonium-uranium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel for the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture, the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture and the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.

For the Genkai and Ikata symposiums, held in 2005 and 2006, the director of NISA’s public relations office told Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co. to get their employees or related people to participate in the symposiums and state their opinions.

During the Ikata symposium, 15 people stated opinions or asked questions, 10 of them set up by Shikoku Electric, the report says.

For the Hamaoka symposium in 2007, another worker in the PR division asked Chubu Electric Power Co. to draw a crowd and draft neutral or supportive questions.

NISA’s credibility as the government nuclear regulatory body has been called into question in recent months. It is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power.

“I think NISA’s move was inappropriate, while we have to further investigate the issue,” said Takashi Oizumi, the panel’s chairman and a former head of the Osaka High Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Oizumi said it appears that the PR director was not aware that his action was inappropriate.

The panel hasn’t determined yet if PR staff members made the requests on their own or if they were acting on orders from senior officials, Oizumi said.