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Chester Dawson, of the Wall Street Journal reports on a scandal emerging in Japan's tattered nuclear industry as industry official attempted to sway public opinion to restart Japans nuclear reactors with faked, and stage-managed" town meetings, and a faked grass roots internet movement, that was "astroturfed." The WSJ charmingly provides separate links to "astrotuffing."  A term meaning that employees, and lobbyists hired by the industry pretending to be citizens wrote in supporting the industries plans pretending to be spontaneous grass roots movement.  

In, Scandal Taints Japan Nuclear Sector Dawson reports:

After a series of disclosures in recent weeks painting government regulators and electric utilities as collaborating to stage-manage public community forums on local nuclear power, efforts to restart idled Japanese nuclear reactors have screeched to a halt.

The controversy was sparked by recent revelations by a whistleblower at utility Kyushu Electric Power Co. that it sought to short-circuit debate at a June community event convened in the southwestern prefecture of Saga to discuss restarting a pair of nuclear reactors that had been shut for routine maintenance.

That has led to Japanese government investigations that have uncovered a nationwide pattern of attempts to manipulate the public's opinion about nuclear power by Japan's biggest electric utilities. Some of those power companies then pointed the finger back at regulators for having covertly urged such efforts in the first place.

In an AstroTurf campaign, corporations send employees, or hired lobbyists to pretend to be a spontaneous citizens grass roots movement, to pack events, plant questions, emails, or blogging campaigns to make it appear that regular people support the corporate goals.

Seven electric utilities have admitted they have been sending employees to make up more than half the audiences of community town forums for more than five years.  

At the June public forum, there were 286 opinions in support of restarting the reactors and 163 opposed. Japanese media have reported that more than 140 of the supporting comments were directly attributable to pressure from Kyushu Electric, enough to tip the balance. That "consensus" was used by government officials as a reason to move ahead with a restart.

Chubu Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co. said they were ordered to do so by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, ostensibly the government's chief nuclear watchdog. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda, who oversees the agency, admitted to, and apologized for, those actions by officials. At a parliamentary hearing where he was berated by opposition lawmakers for his handling of the mushrooming scandal, Mr. Kaieda broke down in tears.

One impressive aspect of Japanese honor, is that when top executives, and especially government officials, are caught in such scandals they seem to quickly confess and feel unbearable shame, instead, of denials, and hiding behind armies of lawyers, like sociopaths without remorse, in the American style.  

Last week, Prime Minister Naoto Kan accused NISA, the equivalant of our NRC of being a lobby for the Japanese utilities and nuclear industry, and urged they their oversight of the nuclear industry be transferred to the environmental protection agency.

This comes just a week after and additional scandal, where Japan hid radiation data that caused and entire Japanese village to seek shelter right in the middle of the area with the highest radiation levels, which I reported here three days ago. Japan Hid Radiation Data Causing Citizens Unnecessary Exposure Mayor Baba Says Is 'Akin To Murder'

Here's another example of where the attempt to cover-up, and manipulate the public after a tragedy becomes more scandalous than the incompetence that lead up to it.

Do we need any further evidence that nuclear technology exceeds our current socio-political ability to manage it safely?

If so check out this report from two days ago showing incompetence in both the OIG and NRC in the USA. Inspector General's Office Failing to Oversee Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Both Maybe Incompetent

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Originally posted to Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 08:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear Free DK and Kosowatt.

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