Kansai Electric Power Co.'s in-house probe of its executives' receipt of money and gifts worth more than ¥300 million from a former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture — which hosts one of Kepco's nuclear power plants — highlighted the decades-long unusual relationship between the power company and the figure who held a powerful influence over the town until his death in March. At the same time, Kepco's explanation over its sharply increased contracts with a local construction company with close ties to the figure — who was given information over the utility's nuclear power-related works and was paid ¥300 million by the construction firm — is hardly convincing.

Kepco says it will launch a third-party probe by lawyers over the intransparent exchanges between the firm and the late Eiji Moriyama, to come to a conclusion by the end of the year. Such a probe must get to the bottom of whether there was collusion between the nuclear power plant operator and the influential figure in the plant's host municipality.

Moriyama, who died last spring at 90, is said to have played a key role in facilitating the launch of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kepco's Takahama nuclear power plant while he was serving as a senior official of the town government. The report on Kepco's in-house probe of the money and gifts from Moriyama — compiled last year but disclosed only last week — recognized him as a powerful figure who continued to exert influence in the local community even after retiring as the town's official.