Kyushu Electric Power Co. last Wednesday admitted there was an orchestrated effort to send a broadcaster a large number of emails in support of restarting the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors of its Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture. On June 26 the broadcaster aired a program on the subject over cable TV and the Internet.
The incident would seem to support suspicions that the power industry is more interested in manipulating public opinion than in accurately explaining the safety problems of nuclear power plants.
The utility’s executive vice president, Mamoru Dangami, who retired from the post at the end of June, told Mr. Akira Nakamura, then head of the utility’s nuclear power control department, to make efforts to enliven discussions in the program.
So, Mr. Nakamura instructed a subordinate to make the program known among employees of the utility and its affiliates. He then emailed three Kyushu Electric offices and four subsidiaries, asking them to send emails supporting the restart of the reactors to the program’s broadcaster.
There were 286 opinions supporting the restart and 163 opinions opposing it. According to an investigation by the utility, 141 of the emails supporting the restart were staged, meaning that had it not been for them, “no” opinions would have prevailed over “yes” opinions.
Although Mr. Dangami did not specifically tell Mr. Nakamura to have Kyushu Electric employees send emails supportive of the restart of the reactors, the utility decided that his instruction to enliven discussions in the program was tantamount to a call to send such emails.
Since only seven Saga prefectural residents were allowed to take part in the program, the only way to supplement the discussions was to send emails or faxes. Given the situation surrounding the Genkai plant, employees would take the instruction as a call for sending “yes” opinions.
One also wonders whether the program itself was meaningful in view of the fact that the number of participants was limited to only seven and the program was sponsored by the government. Furthermore, government explanations given during the program were criticized for being difficult to understand.
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