Mayors near Hamaoka nuclear plant say wider consensus needed for reactor restarts

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The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, idled for five years and now guarded by a 22-meter-tall tsunami wall, is seen on May 12, 2016. Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, is seen in the background.

Seven heads of 11 Shizuoka Prefecture municipalities located within a 30-kilometer radius of Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant said in a recent Mainichi Shimbun survey that they believe restarting the currently idled nuclear reactors requires agreement from not only the host prefecture and host city but also other municipalities around the plant.

As May 14 marks the sixth year after the Hamaoka nuclear plant suspended operations upon a request from the then government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Mainichi Shimbun surveyed the Shizuoka Prefecture governor and mayors of 11 prefectural municipalities in the “Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone” (UPZ) around the plant. UPZs cover areas within a radius of 30 kilometers of a nuclear plant.

While no legal framework has been set up regarding the scope of municipal consensus necessary to restart operations at a nuclear station, requests have been growing for a broader agreement among municipalities — not just the host prefecture and host municipality — in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who is running for re-election in the gubernatorial race scheduled for June, has argued for the need to hold a referendum over the restart of the Hamaoka plant and has expressed a positive view of involving the 11 mayors in decisions regarding the matter. Consequently, the issue could become a key point in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The Mainichi asked Gov. Kawakatsu and 11 municipal mayors in a multiple-choice form about the scope of local consensus over the Hamaoka plant restart. Five mayors said agreement from all 11 municipalities in the UPZ was necessary, one favored gaining consensus from four municipalities located within a 10-kilometer radius of the plant and another mayor wanted agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture. The mayor of Omaezaki, the host city of the Hamaoka plant, said restarting the idled nuclear plant only required the city’s agreement.

Shigeki Nishihara, the mayor of Makinohara, neighboring Omaezaki, said consensus from municipalities in the UPZ was necessary. He commented that local governments (in that area) “have a responsibility to secure their residents’ safety.” Meanwhile, Yasuo Ota, the mayor of the town of Mori, who picked “agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture” to restart the Hamaoka plant, told the Mainichi, “It is necessary to hear broad opinions when it comes to gaining consensus over nuclear power as a national energy policy.”

While the remaining four mayors checked “other” in the survey, most of them expressed their view of involving the national government in deciding the scope of local consensus.

Gov. Kawakatsu stressed that it is not an appropriate time to make a decision over the scope of local consensus and repeated that a referendum over the issue of the Hamaoka plant is necessary from the standpoint of popular sovereignty.

No local government heads surveyed were actually in favor of restarting the Hamaoka nuclear plant, even under right conditions such as with approved safety measures. Three city mayors said they were against restarting the plant. Seven local government chiefs chose “other” in the question, while the remaining two said they “cannot judge at the moment.”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening process of the Hamaoka nuclear plant has been prolonged as the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors being screened are the same “boiling-water type” reactors as the ones at the devastated Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Furthermore, the estimated maximum ground motion at the Hamaoka nuclear station is likely to be raised because it is located directly above the hypocenter of a potential Nankai Trough megaquake.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170513/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

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