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Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011

Nuke advocacy stand-ins took in seven events: probe

Staff writer

An independent committee set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry submitted a final report Friday concluding that the government asked utility officials to attend state-hosted symposiums on nuclear power on seven occassions in a bid to talk up official atomic power goals.

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Horseradish alarm: Yukinobu Tajima, head of the Fragrance Marketing Association and one of the researchers who won the Ig Nobel chemistry prize Thursday, holds a smoke detector that sprays a wasabi scent in April 2009 in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. KYODO

The committee, headed by Takashi Oizumi, a former head of the Osaka High Public Prosecutor's Office, said officials of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is under the nuclear power-promoting METI, and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy were involved in the apparent surreptitious talk-ups. The report lashed out at their poor governance and NISA's failure to play a neutral role as a nuclear watchdog.

The committee claimed the fixes were based on the officials' individual judgment, denying any organizational involvement.

"Nuclear power policies cannot be promoted without (the acceptance of) local residents and the general public. But NISA and ANRE have very low awareness of the importance of public relations as well as the need for fairness and transparency," the report said.

Later in the day, NISA chief Hiroyuki Fukano said: "I have to say that the organizational management was problematic. The understanding of what this organization is about was not shared among officials."

The report said NISA, the government's nuclear watchdog, and ANRE, which promotes atomic power, asked utilities to send their workers to the seminars on nuclear power and pose neutral or supportive questions.

METI Minister Yukio Edano released a statement saying the ministry will swiftly draft measures to prevent further false representations and reprimand those involved.

The report said NISA and ANRE officials apparently were more bent on making the symposiums seem successful by drawing crowds instead of serving the purpose of communicating with the public to deepen understanding of and field opinions about nuclear power.

Of 41 probed cases, government involvement was confirmed on seven occasions — the symposiums on the use of plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture in 2005, the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture in 2006, the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture in 2007 and the Tomari plant in 2008, as well as three explanatory sessions looking into the quake resistance of the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture in 2006.

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The Japan Times

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