Participants in an anti-nuclear gathering in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, raise placards demanding the abolition of nuclear power plants on Sept. 3.


NIIGATA–Anti-nuclear groups are pleading with Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida to rescind his decision not to run for re-election, seeing him as the “last bastion” to block the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

The groups fear that the absence of Izumida in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, whose official campaigning starts on Sept. 29, will cause a dearth in debate among candidates on the safety of the multiple-reactor nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the prefecture.

Governor (Izumida) is not aware of his value,” said Kunio Ueno, 66, secretary-general of the organizing committee for a gathering of anti-nuclear groups held in Kashiwazaki on Sept. 3.

Eighteen groups, based in and outside Niigata Prefecture, set up the organizing committee for the gathering and demanded the decommissioning of reactors at the plant.

We will not allow candidates in the gubernatorial election to conceal a point of contention,” their declaration read. “We will make the issue of the nuclear power plant the biggest point of contention.”

Outside the site of the gathering, several citizens groups collected signatures to ask Izumida to run in the election.

On Aug. 30, Izumida, 53, who is in his third term as Niigata governor, announced he will not seek re-election, citing a report in a local newspaper that was not related to the nuclear issue.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is currently conducting screenings toward the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

But Izumida has insisted that the causes of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, also operated by TEPCO, must be verified before reactor operations can resume in his prefecture.

As of now, only Tamio Mori, 67, mayor of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture, has announced he will run in the governor’s race.

On the issue of whether to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, Mori has only said, “I will strictly examine it based on protecting the security and safety of people in the prefecture.”

About 1,300 people took part in the Sept. 3 gathering.

Sayaka Sakazume, 32, of Niigata city, said: “It will be a problem for me if there are no candidates I can vote for based on my thoughts against the reactor restarts. I want a political situation in which we can choose a candidate.”