Economy and Trade Minister Yukio Edano on Friday reiterated the government’s position that Kyushu Electric will not be given the go-ahead to restart two reactors at its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture.
Edano has been fiercely critical of the utility since the top two executives refused to resign to take responsibility for a fake email scandal to manipulate public opinion on the resumption of operations at the power plant.
Kyushu Electric submitted fake emails in support of a restart of two idle nuclear reactors at a government-sponsored meeting for local residents in June. Following that revelation, the industry ministry ordered six electric power companies to conduct internal investigations of their PR activities and to report all activities aimed at winning local support for nuclear power.
An independent commission investigating the scandal named Saga Prefectural Gov Yasushi Furukawa Committee chairman as the person who proposed that fake emails be used in the question and answer session.
In order to create the impression that there existed widespread public support for the reopening of the Genkai nuclear power plant, Furukawa allegedly told Kyushu Electric to use the Internet to submit messages purporting to be from members of the public agreeing to the plan.
In August, Furukawa told a news conference that a memo was drafted, but that it did not accurately represent his wishes. “The fact that the memo got circulated does not mean that I have to take responsibility for the scandal,” he told the media.
Kyushu Electric’s internal investigation revealed that, of 2,900 employees, 141 sent emails. It also found that Kyushu Electric’s Saga office had sent similar pro-nuclear emails to partners and that it asked employees at its subsidiaries and partner companies to attend a July 8 meeting for residents in the prefecture. The commission found that 63 employees of these companies were present at the meeting, constituting about 20% of the audience.
Edano said the current management has ignored most of the findings of the independent commission set up to investigate the scandal.
The utility resumed operations at its No. 1 reactor last month, but reactors No. 2 and 3 have been offline for safety checks.
The reactor at the Genkai nuclear plant was the first to resume operations since the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11 sparked an atomic emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The restart comes as a boost to Japan’s beleaguered nuclear industry, which is battling a skeptical public largely unwilling to allow operations to restart at the dozens of stalled reactors nationwide.
Kyushu Electric officials, however, say the situation at Genkai is different from that of other suspended reactors, which are required to undergo government-mandated stress tests.
Reactors halted for checks must pass stress tests before they are allowed to resume operation, but local authorities have the power to veto the restarts.
Public officials in Saga gave their assent to the restart there after the nuclear safety agency gave its stamp of approval.