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Nuclear plant town official behind KEPCO payoffs spent decades developing local influence

Eiji Moriyama, former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture.
Kansai Electric Power Co. President Shigeki Iwane, right, explains executives' acceptance of cash and gifts from former Takahama Deputy Mayor Eiji Moriyama, while Chairman Makoto Yagi bows at a news conference in Osaka's Fukushima Ward on Oct. 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

Eiji Moriyama, the late former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, and a central figure in a scandal involving payoffs to Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), developed his influence on both the nuclear industry and the local community in the prefecture while working for the town for years.

KEPCO Chairman Makoto Yagi has suggested to reporters that the company needed to flatter Moriyama to persuade local residents to accept a nuclear plant that was constructed in the town.

Moriyama, who died at 90 this past March, joined the Takahama Municipal Government in 1969 when the town authorities, which were struggling to even pay wages to employees, leaned toward hosting an atomic power station.

"It was a tough decision in order to support the town administration and maintain the welfare of local residents," an individual linked to the town along the Sea of Japan coast recalls.

In 1974, the No. 1 reactor at KEPCO's Takahama nuclear plant began commercial operations. The number of reactors at the atomic complex had increased to four by 1985.

Moriyama played a leading role in persuading local residents to accept the nuclear complex and its expansion. He was appointed as treasurer at the municipal government in 1975 and promoted to deputy mayor two years later, increasing his influence while serving as a coordinator between KEPCO and the local community.

Moriyama also served as an adviser to Kanden Plant Corp., a KEPCO subsidiary that conducts regular inspections on its nuclear reactors, for more than 30 years and received remuneration for his time in this position.

Meanwhile, Yoshida Kaihatsu, a company that provided some 300 million yen to Moriyama, received contracts from KEPCO.

"All relevant businesses were trying to win contracts from KEPCO through Moriyama," a municipal assembly member recalled.

Amid these circumstances, KEPCO gave Moriyama special treatment. An employee was assigned to KEPCO's Nuclear Power Division in the Fukui Prefecture town of Mihama, home to the firm's Mihama nuclear plant, to deal with Moriyama.

The former deputy mayor was often invited as a speaker at seminars for employees. Many company executives were present at cherry blossom-viewing parties and birthday parties attended by Moriyama. KEPCO and Moriyama were thus in a "give-and-take" relationship.

Moriyama appeared to be authoritative person, according to those linked to him. Sources said Moriyama even indicated that he had influence on KEPCO's personnel reshuffles, saying, "You can be transferred at any time."

When employees tried to return money or gifts given by Moriyama, he is said to have become furious, asking them, "Can't you accept my money?"

An executive of KEPCO said, "Employees at our firm had a dread of him."

(Japanese original by Yuhi Sugiyama, Osaka Business News Department, and Hisashi Tsukamoto, Fukui Bureau)

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