Friday, October 28, 2011

Japanese Nuclear Power Company Under Fire Over Unethical Conduct

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Japanese government minister in charge of the nuclear industry has lashed out at one of the country's leading nuclear energy companies, accusing it of watering down a report that found the firm guilty of manipulating public opinion.

An independent panel found that the Kyushu Electric Power company stacked public meetings with employees pretending to be ordinary citizens.

The report also implicated the governor of the prefecture in the scandal.

But in its own report responding to the panel's findings the nuclear power company dismisses the scandal.

Presenter: Mark Willacy, North Asia correspondent
Speaker: Yukio Edano, Japanese Industry Minister; Toshio Manabe, president of Kyushu Electric Power

WILLACY: It was the Kyushu Electric Power company's response to a damning report into its manipulation of public opinion.

The independent panel found the firm stacked public meetings with its own employees - employees pretending to be ordinary citizens who stood up and spoke in favour of nuclear power.

The panel found improper links between the company and the governor of the prefecture where its key nuclear plant was based.

It found Kyushu Electric had engaged in other improper tactics, twisting public opinion by sending in fake emails to a TV broadcast about nuclear power.

But in its own report responding to the panel's findings Kyushu Electric brushed off the scandal and the governor's name hardly even gets a mention.

"Kyushu Electric has some nerve doing this," says a clearly livid industry minister Yukio Edano. "Especially given the public's scepticism at the moment about nuclear power. I just can't understand it," he says.

The report of the independent panel and the report of the Kyushu Electric Power company could be about totally different things - a criticism the firm's president swept aside under questioning at a press conference.

"It's inevitable there'll be some differences of opinion between the two reports," says Toshio Manabe with considerable understatement.

The independent panel found that Kyushu Electric moved to take unethical actions like stacking meetings with undercover employees after being told by the governor Yasushi Furukawa that he wanted to hear positive opinions about nuclear power.

The panel called for there to be more transparency in the relationship between the governor and the nuclear company.

"Our company firmly believes there's nothing wrong in our relationship with the governor," says Kyushu Electric's president Toshio Manabe. "These false charges shouldn't be laid." he says.

Back in Tokyo, the minister in charge of the nuclear industry was having none of it.

"Kyushu Electric's management has failed to address the contradictions between its report and the independent panel's finding," says industry minister Yukio Edano. "This raises serious questions about its governance and I will now consider ordering the company to re-issue its report," he says.

No longer does Japan's nuclear industry appear to have a lap-dog minister in Tokyo promoting its interests.

Kyushu Electric's blinding arrogance in this case will only feed growing public cynicism and anger about the sort of people running Japan's nuclear power plants.

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