Chubu Says Japan Regulator Sought to Sway Public on Atomic Power

Chubu Electric Power Co. said Japan’s nuclear regulator asked the utility to prepare questions favoring atomic power for a public hearing in 2007, compromising the watchdog’s code of conduct.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency -- which lists one of its codes of conduct as “neutrality and justice” -- asked Chubu to write queries on plutonium-thermal technology at its Hamaoka nuclear plant, so that “not all questions would be from opponents of the program,” Chubu Electric said today in a statement on its website.

The regulator, known as NISA, also suggested the utility have local residents ask the questions during the meeting, the statement said. Chubu Electric said it declined the request as it would violate its own compliance regulations. NISA said it couldn’t confirm the accuracy of the statement.

“We haven’t confirmed if any NISA officials requested this of Chubu Electric,” Yuji Hino, the agency’s spokesman, said by phone. “Reports from utilities were submitted to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, we have not received the reports yet.”

Japan’s utilities are releasing information on non- transparent attempts to influence public opinion on nuclear power. This is after Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it asked staffers at affiliates to send e-mails supporting the restart of two reactors to an internet-broadcast show run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on plant safety.

The behavior was called “unspeakable” and completely against the rationale of the program by Trade and Industry minister Banri Kaieda, who later called for the resignation of Kyushu Electric president Toshio Manabe.

NISA?

Chubu’s statement is the first to suggest NISA was involved in concealed attempts to influence public opinion on atomic power.

“This lowers the credibility of NISA, which gives official go-ahead when restarting a nuclear reactor and will make it more difficult to get approvals from local governments on restarts,” Reiji Ogino, an analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley in Tokyo, said by phone today.

Opposition to atomic power is rising in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, triggering the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl 25 years ago. An Asahi newspaper poll published on July 12 said 77 percent of respondents opposed nuclear power.

Of Japan’s 54 reactors, 38 are idled or inactive as local officials block restarts of units closed for maintenance and safety checks since the earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima station, causing radiation leaks.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. also said today it asked workers and affiliates to attend public discussions on nuclear power between 2007 and 2010.

The discussions were held in Japan’s Niigata prefecture, site of the utility’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant, according to a faxed statement from Tokyo Electric today.

Tepco said 27 of 275 managers at its nuclear division said they either asked staff to attend or received requests to attend such discussions. Employees were not asked to express specific opinions at the meetings, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at tinajima@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Langan at plangan@bloomberg.net

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