Niigata Newly Elected Governor Says No Restart for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, Tepco’s World Biggest Nuclear Power Plant

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Japanese anti-nuclear candidate wins election at site of world’s biggest atomic power station

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the newly elected governor of Niigata, says he will not restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station shut down after Fukushima

An anti-nuclear candidate has been elected in a region of Japan that houses the world’s biggest atomic power station, striking a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by leftwing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata, north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected on Sunday. Shares in Tokyo Electric Power fell 8% on Monday after the news broke.

The vote was dominated by concerns about the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe. The result represents a challenge to the government’s energy policy.

As I have promised all of you, under current circumstances where we can’t protect your lives and your way of life, I declare clearly that I can’t approve a restart,” the 49-year-old told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Cheers of “Banzai!” erupted as media began projecting him the winner over former mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Yoneyama had more than 500,000 votes to about 430,000 for Mori with 93% of the vote counted, public broadcaster NHK said. Voters opposed restarting the plant by 73% to 27%, according to an exit poll by the broadcaster.

Mori, a former construction ministry bureaucrat, apologised to his supporters for failing to win the election.

Yoneyama, who has run unsuccessfully for office four times, promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, to restart the plant.

Reviving the seven-reactor site, which has a capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30% of the nation’s needs.

The election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running, more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco didn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said had happened in Fukushima. He said the company didn’t have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/17/japanese-anti-nuclear-candidate-wins-election-at-site-of-worlds-biggest-atomic-power-station

Setback for operator of world’s largest atomic plant as anti-nuclear doctor elected Niigata governor

NIIGATA – Sunday’s victory of an anti-nuclear activist in the Niigata gubernatorial election is a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy.

Doctor-lawyer Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, defeated the candidate endorsed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Former construction ministry bureaucrat Tamio Mori, 67, was expected until the last moment to cruise to victory.

Yoneyama has never held office.

Campaigning for Sunday’s vote was dominated by concerns over the future of the world’s biggest atomic power station, the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex. Nationwide, all but two reactors are shut down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Abe has pushed hard for restarts.

Under current circumstances where we can’t protect the lives and the way of life of citizens in the prefecture, I can’t approve a restart,” Yoneyama told reporters on Monday.

Supported by the Japanese Communist Party and two other small parties, Yoneyama secured close to 530,000 votes. Mori trailed with 465,000.

The focus will now be how Yoneyama will be able to cooperate with local municipalities and the central government in creating evacuation plans for nuclear disasters. These will be key before restarts can take place.

Abe, meanwhile, told a Diet committee that he will respect the choice of Niigata and that he will cooperate with the new governor.

Shares in Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., which operates the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, fell 8 percent on Monday.

The complex has a capacity of 8 gigawatts. Its revival is key to saving Tepco, which was brought low by the Fukushima meltdowns and hydrogen explosions, and then repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Senior management at Tepco have made it clear that restarting the Kashiwazaki reactors is fundamentally important to restoring their finances,” Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Tokyo-based consultant Mathyos, said by email. “There now has to be significant uncertainty over restarting those reactors.”

Yoneyama’s victory came after Tepco President Naomi Hirose highlighted the utility’s financial vulnerability this month. He said it may face insolvency if it were to recognize the cost of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Resumption of operations at just one of Kashiwazaki Kariwa’s reactors would boost the utility’s profit by about ¥10 billion a month, the company has said.

Yoneyama previously tried to run for office four times. He was unsuccessful.

In this election, he promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco to restart the plant. Tepco supplies about a third of Japan’s electricity.

As the race tightened, the election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The talk was of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but I think the result will affect nuclear restarts across the country,” said Shigeaki Koga, a former trade and industry ministry official who is a critic of nuclear restarts and the Abe administration.

Koga said it was important that Yoneyama join forces with another newly elected governor skeptical of nuclear restarts, Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Without strong support from others, it won’t be easy to take on Tepco,” he said.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco lacks the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said happened in Fukushima. He said the company did not have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the top priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/17/national/politics-diplomacy/setback-operator-worlds-largest-atomic-plant-anti-nuclear-doctor-elected-niigata-governor/#.WARoUSQzYU1

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