Government-linked events to win support on nuclear waste disposal sites tempted students with rewards

Kyodo

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan has admitted to offering students money and rewards in exchange for attending government events promoting public acceptance of hosting disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste.

“We weren’t supposed to solicit participants by paying money, but the idea was not thoroughly shared inside the company,” an official of the organization known as NUMO said, adding that it had confirmed no rewards were actually handed over to the participants.

NUMO, which along with the industry ministry organized the events, blamed the matter on mismanagement by a Tokyo-based marketing company that has engaged in publicity work.

On Nov. 6, the marketing company in question, Oceanize Inc., promised a dozen students it would pay them ¥10,000 ($88) each in exchange for their participation in an event held in the city of Saitama that targeted local residents.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the company made the decision on its own because some students who were initially expected to attend the event canceled and it had to quickly fill the vacancies.

The event capacity was set at 100 people. But only 86 people — including the 12 students — took part.

In similar events held between October and early November in Tokyo and the prefectures of Aichi, Osaka and Hyogo, Oceanize mobilized 27 students by promising them printing services and venues for their club activities.

The company also sought to encourage participation in gatherings in five other prefectures, but no students took part, according to NUMO.

Oceanize said it could not comment on the issue because a person responsible was absent.

Planning for the events kicked into full gear after the government unveiled a map in July indicating potential deep-underground disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, having identified some 70 percent of the country’s land as suitable.

Because the final disposal of nuclear waste is a long-term project, which is expected to take more than 100 years to complete, the government launched the series of events in October with the aim of increasing attendance by younger generations.

At the events, officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and NUMO explained the map in the hope of gaining public acceptance on the issue in order to move on to the next stage of the process, which is to conduct research for candidate sites.

METI officials said there will be no changes made to planned future events, adding that only Oceanize was involved in recruiting students by offering rewards. The ministry asked NUMO to take preventive measures, including carrying out reviews of companies conducting publicity for the events.

NUMO officials said the organization had been working with Oceanize since fiscal 2013 because of the firm’s vast network, which includes some 4,500 student’s associations.