Athird-party committee of the Hokkaido government on Wednesday reported that the then chief of the regional government’s nuclear power safety measures section asked Hokkaido Electric Power Co. in July 2008 to collect opinions that favored the use of MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor of its Tomari nuclear power plant.

The chief made the request because a majority of opinions collected by the Hokkaido government up to that point had been decidedly against the use of MOX fuel, which contains both plutonium and uranium, the committee said.

This is just the latest revelation of attempts to rig public opinions on nuclear power.

Behind the regional government official’s request was the central government’s policy of giving subsidies to prefectural governments that accepted the use of MOX fuel in nuclear power plants.

A prefectural government that decided to accept MOX fuel use by the end of March 2009 was to get ¥1 billion before MOX fuel use began and ¥5 billion over five years beginning the year after MOX fuel use started.

The committee pointed out that the Hokkaido government needed a large number of opinions in support of MOX fuel use so that it could approve the company’s MOX fuel plan within fiscal 2008. Gov. Harumi Takahashi of Hokkaido approved the plan on March 5, 2009. The committee said that the official’s action did not affect her judgment. But this conclusion may raise suspicions among local people.

In October the committee concluded that the power company, in an organized fashion, instructed employees to take part and express opinions favoring use of MOX fuel at a symposium in 2008 sponsored by the central and Hokkaido governments.

It is already known that the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, both of the trade and industry ministry, asked five power companies — Hokkaido, Tohoku, Chubu, Shikoku and Kyushu — to mobilize employees and other people to express opinions favoring nuclear power generation in public meetings, symposiums, etc.

Only Chubu Electric Power Co. refused to comply with such requests.

Given the collusive ties between the government and the power industry, it will be difficult for people to take the claim of nuclear power plant safety at face value. Local residents will resist the restart of such plants even when their regular inspection is over.

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