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Japan nuke companies stacked public meetings

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy
Updated October 03, 2011 11:00:46

An independent investigation in Japan has revealed a long history of nuclear power companies conspiring with governments to manipulate public opinion in favour of nuclear energy.
One nuclear company even stacked public meetings with its own employees who posed as ordinary citizens to speak in support of nuclear power plants.
"The number one reactor has been operating for 30 years and I've never had a problem selling my rice or vegetables because of fears of radiation," a man posing as a farmer told a gathering of citizens discussing a proposal to use plutonium fuel at the Genkai nuclear plant on the southern island of Kyushu.
The man was not a farmer at all. It turns out he is an employee of the Kyushu Electric Power Company, the operator of the Genkai nuclear plant.
In another meeting aired live on TV after the Fukushima meltdowns, the company asked viewers to email in questions.
But again, the questions were all written by the company and sent in by employees posing as ordinary citizens, and these emails urged the company to restart reactors left idle after the Fukushima disaster.
The head of an independent investigation panel, Nobuo Gohara, says the meetings were supposed to be an opportunity for the public to ask questions, but Kyushu Electric blatantly planted leading questions and favourable comments.
Not only that, the panel found that the utility also destroyed important documents relating to its investigation.

Governor implicated

It also implicated the governor of the prefecture, saying Yasushi Furukawa was colluding with the nuclear company to manipulate public opinion.
"There's a lack of transparency between Kyushu electric and local officials," Mr Gohara said.
The panel recommended that the utility stop making political donations and refrain from buying tickets to political fundraisers and has called on the governor to disentangle himself from the nuclear company.
"I've been urged in the report to rethink my relationship with Kyushu Electric Power Company," Mr Furukawa said.
"So I will consider what an appropriate relationship should be."
The Kyushu Electric Power Company has promised not to rig, stage or manipulate public meetings ever again.
"This is the moment of truth for our company," said vice-president Yoshinori Fukahori. "We will do out utmost to prevent a recurrence."
But if you think this was a one-off case involving one Japanese nuclear power company, you would be wrong.
Another investigation has found that at least three other nuclear firms also rigged meetings in an attempt to manipulate public opinion and they did it in collusion with the Nuclear Safety Agency - the very government body supposed to keep them on the straight and narrow.