British Government officials worked secretly with multinational energy giants to try and play down the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, according to a series of damaging internal emails released under the freedom of information legislation.
The Guardian newspaper said the emails showed that officials approached nuclear companies such as EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to draw up a "coordinated public relations strategy’’ in a bid to ensure that the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in Britain.
In one email, an official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) voiced concern that the Fukushima accident had "the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally’’.
“We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear,” he wrote.
Another official wrote to nuclear firms and their representative body, the Nuclear Industry Association, claiming the situation was not as bad as the “dramatic” TV pictures made it look.
According to The Guardian, the official suggested that if companies sent in their comments, they could be incorporated into briefs to ministers.
“We need to all be working from the same material to get the message through to the media and the public,” he said stressing the need “to quash any stories trying to compare this to Chernobyl.”
The disclosure sparked allegations of government "collusion’’ with the nuclear energy sector. Campaign group Greenpeace called it "scandalous collusion’’.
“This highlights the government's blind obsession with nuclear power and shows neither they, nor the industry, can be trusted when it comes to nuclear,” said its spokesperson Louise Hutchins.
Zac Goldsmith, a Tory MP and member of the Commons environmental audit committee, said the Government had "no business doing PR for the industry and it would be appalling if its departments have played down the impact of Fukushima.”