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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kyushu Electric Power, and public trust

Several Japanese media outlets are now carrying various stories about the Genkai Nuclear Station, its owner-operator Kyushu Electric Power, and the Genkai town meeting on June 26th at which many opinions on the restart of the Genkai station were presented. It appears that Kyushu's management asked a number of its own employees and employees of other firms to send in e-mails for presentation at this meeting. These e-mails were in support of returning the plant to full operation.

The Japanese government appears to be preparing to get involved; Cabinet Secretary Edano and Economy and Trade Minister Kaieda have issued some fairly harsh statements about the actions and the loss of trust that Kyushu will now have to make good.

This is absolutely not the kind of thing that utilities (ie, owner-operators of nuclear plants) needs to be doing right now. Even if the intention was good, the public appraisal of such an effort could never be good; even if the company wanted its employees to express their faith in the company, and the nuclear station and its preparedness in some outward way, such a covert campaign was doomed to appear as "ballot box stuffing" or worse in the present rarified atmosphere. One wonders how high up this runs - the President of Kyushu Electric has taken responsibility for this effort although he is not resigning at this time - and one also wonders who that had the chance DIDN'T say "no" to this plan. Japanese business etiquette almost demands that the president of the company take blame.. but was this wholly his plan?

Bad idea, and very bad timing.

10:30 PM Eastern Wednesday July 6, 2011
ATOMIC POWER REVIEW

5 comments:

  1. I disagree that this is a bad idea on its face. Why should residents of a district be excluded from expressing their support for the plant? It smacks of an impossible standard to ask the plant's employees to stand silently by with their livelihoods at stake while less-informed and -involved parties are free to air their opinions.

    If this breaks etiquette, it is the etiquette that is wrong.

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  2. @joffan: And they should be able to! The problem is that the ownership of Kyushu Electric deliberately solicited comments from its own employees and employees of its suppliers. It is the act of management that is in question.

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  3. I hope the Japanese people could discriminate between bad public policies and the operations and record of nuclear plants themselves and not allow stupid PR actions to slander an entire energy source with an enviable worker/public safety record.

    James Greenidge

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  4. I'm trying to work out whether this is something or nothing. This article, while seeming to point to an admission of fault by Kyushi Electric, still remains very non-specific. There may be a fuzzy boundary here, and I don't know where past events lie in relation to that. An e-mail that reminded people that, as residents, they were entitled to express their personal views would be reasonable, expecially in a climate that previously had held back from such contributions. An e-mail that even hinted that people should pretend to be residents who were not would clearly not be acceptable. An e-mail that was ambiguous... I don't know.

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  5. A few more details in this article, where the president talks of resigning.

    However, part of the e-mail instruction read: "Send opinions and questions ...which could win sympathy from the prefecture residents." It also said, "Use personal computers from home."

    Knowing what happens to partially quoted e-mails, I'm not ready to decide this was done with villainous intent, and less informative articles definitely try to paint a blacker picture.

    And in any case... gathering opinion in an uncontrolled fashion over the internet may not have been a great idea either.

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