Students have been lured by money and other rewards to attend government events to promote public understanding linked to hosting final disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, one of the organizers said Tuesday.
The revelation of a possible attempt to manipulate the participants in the events may serve as a blow to the government's renewed efforts to select final nuclear waste disposal sites after seeing little progress on the issue over the past 20 years or so.
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, which along with the industry ministry has organized the events, admitted that 39 students were offered rewards in exchange for their attendance, but blamed the matter on mismanagement by a Tokyo-based marketing company that has engaged in publicity work.
"We weren't supposed to solicit participants by paying money, but the idea was not thoroughly shared inside the company," an official of the organizer known as NUMO said, adding it confirmed that no rewards had actually been handed to the participants.
On Nov. 6, the marketing company in question, Oceanize Inc., promised a dozen students it would pay them 10,000 yen ($88) each in exchange for their participation in an event held in the city of Saitama targeting local residents.
The event capacity was set at 100 people and 86 including the 12 students took part.
In similar events held between October and early November in Tokyo and Aichi, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, Oceanize mobilized 27 students by promising them printing services and venues for their club activities.
The company also sought to encourage the participation in gatherings in five other prefectures, but no students took part in them, according to NUMO.
Oceanize said it could not comment on the issue because a person in charge was absent.
The series of events started in October after the government unveiled a map in July indicating potential deep-underground disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, identifying some 70 percent of the country's land as suitable.
In the events, officials of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and NUMO explained about the map in the hope to earn public understanding on the issue and move on to the next stage of conducting research for potential candidate sites.