Imari Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe

Mayor opposes reactor restarts in Saga; utility pushes ahead

IMARI, Saga Prefecture–The mayor of Imari expressed opposition to Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart a nearby nuclear power plant, but the city in southern Japan has no legal authority to keep the reactors offline.

I was worried about the ramifications on the local economy and the livelihoods of local residents when the Genkai nuclear plant suspended operations (after the Fukushima nuclear disaster),” Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe said at a news conference on July 4. “Five years on, there have been no large disruptions. The prevailing sentiment in this city is that the plant does not need to go back online.”

Tsukabe’s comments came after Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, told a June 28 news conference that the utility is keen to restart two reactors at the Genkai plant.

We are aiming to reactivate them by the end of the current fiscal year,” he said.

Imari, a city of 57,000 people, lies within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant in the town of Genkai, Saga Prefecture.

That means Imari is required, under central government standards compiled after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, to prepare an evacuation plan for a possible nuclear disaster at the plant.

However, the utility does not need the city’s permission to restart the reactors.

Kyushu Electric, a regional monopoly, has a nonbinding “safety agreement” with the Saga prefectural government and the Genkai town government, requiring their consent before the plant can be restarted.

The company must also obtain prior approval from the two governments for any change in its business plan under the pact.

Imari, which does not host the plant, has no such agreement with Kyushu Electric.

After long negotiations, Kyushu Electric in February did agree to provide Imari with full explanations about plans for the Genkai plant in advance and give due regard to the city’s stance on resuming reactor operations.

Imari also exchanged a memorandum with the prefectural government that said Saga Prefecture will give full consideration to Imari’s opinion in terms of carrying out the safety agreement with Kyushu Electric.

However, the prefectural government’s stance is that the memorandum does not cover reactor restarts.

Masahiko Ishibashi, an official in charge of prefecture’s department overseeing industry and labor, stopped short of taking a clear position on Mayor Tsukabe’s opposition to the resumption of the Genkai plant’s operations.

We take it as an opinion,” Ishibashi said.

Tsukabe said he sees no reason for his city to actively cooperate with Kyushu Electric in its business plan.

Imari residents do not need to bottle up their anxieties about the plant restart for the sake of a portion of Genkai’s economy,” he said.

Regardless of Imari’s opposition, Kyushu Electric will continue its preparations to restart the reactors at the Genkai plant, which is close to the final stage of safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The utility also operates the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the only nuclear power plant currently in service in the nation.


Local mayor vows not to approve restart of Genkai nuke plant

IMARI, Saga — Imari Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe said on July 4 that he had no intention of approving a plan to restart the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga Prefecture.

The Saga Prefecture city of Imari falls within 30 kilometers from Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power station. Imari Mayor Tsukabe said at a regular news conference, “I have no intention of giving consent to restarting (the nuclear plant).”

It is the first time for the head of a municipal government among eight municipalities in three prefectures of Saga, Fukuoka and Nagasaki that are within 30 kilometers from the Genkai nuclear plant to voice such opposition.

Tsukabe said, “If a nuclear accident occurs, we can’t recover from it,” adding, “I will state my opposition (if I am questioned by the prefectural government).”