The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by the Japan Atomic Power Co.
January 8, 2019
Although telling six municipalities they have the right to prior consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, operator Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) is apparently reneging on that promise.
JAPC reached a draft agreement with the local governments to obtain their consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, according to documents from Naka in the prefecture.
The documents, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun through an information disclosure request, detail the six years of negotiations between JAPC and the six local governments and a new safety agreement reached in March 2018.
The six are Tokai village, which hosts the plant, and the five surrounding cities of Hitachi, Hitachinaka, Naka, Hitachiota and Mito.
However, when asked by The Asahi Shimbun if the agreement contained a clause that JAPC would obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments on the restart, the company replied “No.” The six municipalities said the right to prior consent had been agreed upon.
JAPC has apparently changed its stance.
The new safety agreement, concluded on March 29, 2018, stipulates that when JAPC seeks to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant or extend its operation, it will effectively obtain prior approval from Tokai village and five surrounding municipalities.
The apparent break from tradition to give surrounding local municipalities the right of prior consent drew widespread attention as the “Ibaraki method.”
The concept of working out an agreement started in February 2012 when the heads of the six municipalities met to discuss nuclear power and local vitalization.
Tatsuya Murakami, then Tokai village chief, talked about the wide-ranging effects from the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
He said that the issue of whether to allow a restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant couldn’t be decided by Tokai village alone and that it was necessary for surrounding municipalities to have the same right.
However, JAPC rejected the proposal, saying that it needed to maintain a consistent approach with another nuclear plant it operates.
The negotiations continued, and in March 2017 the circumstances changed. In a meeting held that month, JAPC President Mamoru Muramatsu proposed a new safety agreement to the six municipalities.
As for their prior consent, he said, “We’ve determined that we can’t restart the nuclear plant until we obtain consent from the municipalities.”
The municipalities asked Muramatsu if that effectively meant they had the right to “prior consent.”
The JAPC president replied, “That’s correct.”
On Nov. 22, 2017, JAPC presented a new safety agreement, which included “effective prior consent,” in a meeting of the heads of the municipalities.
The municipalities again asked whether they had the right to prior consent. A JAPC official replied, “Yes.”
On Nov. 24, 2017, JAPC applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for a 20-year extension of the operation of the nuclear plant. The deadline for the application was Nov. 28, 2017.
On Nov. 7, 2018, immediately after the NRA approved the 20-year extension, however, JAPC Vice President Nobutaka Wachi said, “The word ‘veto power’ can’t be found anywhere in the new agreement.”
The remark caused a backlash from the six municipalities, and Wachi apologized for his remark. However, relations between JAPC and the municipalities have deteriorated.
In the fall of 2018, The Asahi Shimbun conducted a survey of JAPC and the six municipalities. It asked them, “Is there anything in writing that states that JAPC must obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments in the new agreement?”
In response, JAPC said, “No.” A JAPC official explained, “The new agreement is a plan to effectively obtain prior consent from the six municipalities (by continuing to talk thoroughly with them until they grant their consent).”
The Asahi Shimbun told JAPC that official documents have a description that can be interpreted as granting the municipalities the right to prior consent.
The JAPC official said, “We will refrain from making a comment about the content of discussions from closed meetings.”