TEPCO blunders raise doubts on ability as nuke plant operator

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Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, center, is briefed by the chief of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the No. 6 reactor building in February, while TEPCO President Naomi Hirose, right, looks on.

 

Recent revelations concerning Tokyo Electric Power Co. raised fundamental doubts about whether the utility has done sufficient soul-searching over the accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

The revelations concern the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, where the company is seeking to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors as soon as possible. In one instance, a key facility has been found to be lacking an adequate level of earthquake resistance.

TEPCO’s latest blunders emerged during the final stages of the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening of the two reactors, based on stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The NRA summoned TEPCO President Naomi Hirose. It should come as no surprise that the NRA’s chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, instructed Hirose to re-submit documents in the application for the restarts after ensuring their accuracy as a matter of his responsibility.

The new standards are nothing but the NRA’s minimum requirements for safe reactor operations.

Utilities have the primary responsibility for keeping track of the latest scientific knowledge and improving the safety of nuclear power plants.

A company that fails to pay appropriate attention to developments it finds inconvenient or cannot make swift decisions when faced with such a situation is not qualified to operate a nuclear reactor.

The NRA summoned Hirose over the earthquake resistance of a key building that is designed to serve as an on-site emergency response headquarters at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in the event of a severe accident.

TEPCO had said the building could withstand an earthquake with a maximum intensity of seven on the Japanese seismic scale. In the process of the NRA’s screening, however, the company acknowledged that it may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking.

TEPCO said it learned about the inadequate level of earthquake resistance in 2014. The utility said the information was not shared within the company due to poor communications among different divisions. But that explanation should not be allowed to let it off the hook.

TEPCO also failed to disclose until recently other pieces of information about the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, such as the possibility that an earthquake could cause liquefaction of the ground under a seawall built to protect the plant from tsunami.

NRA officials have criticized TEPCO for its reluctance to disclose problems in a straightforward manner.

Local governments around the plant are similarly aghast.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who has been cautious about endorsing TEPCO’s plan to restart the reactors, has stated that he does not trust the utility.

TEPCO also appears to be losing the trust of Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, who had shown some understanding to the idea of restarts. He said anxiety about TEPCO’s nature has “heightened” due to the latest revelations, combined with the disclosure last year that the company tried to cover up the core meltdowns at the Fukushima plant.

There is now the possibility that I may not give my consent” to the restarts, he said.

The 2007 Chuetsu offshore earthquake destroyed an administrative building at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Learning lessons from the disaster, TEPCO started constructing base-isolated buildings designed to serve as on-site emergency response headquarters at its nuclear power plants.

During the 2011 nuclear disaster, such a building at the Fukushima No. 1 plant was used as the on-site command post.

But the NRA’s screenings of reactors operated by other utilities had revealed that there are cases where buildings constructed with base isolation technology do not meet the new safety standards.

Critics say TEPCO is not eager to incorporate new findings.

It has been repeatedly pointed out that TEPCO first needs to thoroughly reform its organization and corporate culture, among other aspects.

We feel compelled to state again that the company must confront its problems.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703040025.html

Smoke emerges at TEPCO’s Niigata nuclear plant

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NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) — Smoke emerged at a service building of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday but it quickly halted after a firefighting effort by workers, its operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said there was no radiation leak in the incident. The utility has not identified the cause of the incident.

The plant operator confirmed smoke coming out around 3:25 p.m. from a locker room inside the service building, located near the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. The building is not a radiation controlled area, according to the company.

The two reactors on the Sea of Japan coast are being screened by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as TEPCO is seeking to resume their operation after they were halted following the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, also operated by TEPCO.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170223/p2g/00m/0dm/083000c

Tepco’s makes error in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant’s quake proof tests

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TEPCO admits error in screening report

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is demanding an explanation from Tokyo Electric Power Company.
TEPCO has admitted to submitting inaccurate information from calculations 3 years ago on plans for restarting two of its nuclear reactors in Niigata Prefecture.
The regulator is in the final stages of screening the No.6 and 7 reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The reactors must meet new government requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Regulators gathered on Tuesday for discussions with TEPCO about buildings at the plant to be used as headquarters in an emergency.
TEPCO officials admitted one of the buildings lacked the necessary quake-resistance in all 7 of the company’s tests.
They had earlier said that the building had failed 5 of the 7 tests. They said they would not use the building.
They blamed the discrepancy on a failure by the civil engineering department to convey test results to the equipment design department.
The regulators noted the lack of coordination between TEPCO departments on the impact of soil liquefaction on breakwaters.
They called the mistakes unacceptable, and they’re demanding that TEPCO provide details and countermeasures.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170215_18/

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Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right

 

Key Niigata nuclear plant building may not be quake-proof

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has revealed that a key building at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant may not be able to withstand even half of the assumed strongest seismic shaking, contrary to its earlier assurances.

TEPCO’s disclosure came Feb. 14 during a screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the restart of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is the world’s largest.

The utility became aware of the possibility in 2014, but the information was not shared within the company. TEPCO reported to the NRA that the building can withstand temblors of 7, the highest category on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.

The building is designed to serve as an on-site emergency headquarters in the event of a severe accident, such as one caused by an earthquake.

An earthquake that occurred off the Chuetsu region of Niigata Prefecture in 2007 badly damaged the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

In response, TEPCO constructed the building in question in 2009. At that time, it said the structure could withstand the assumed biggest earthquake motions that are 1.5 times stronger than those described in the Building Standards Law.

In 2014, the utility checked the building’s anti-quake capabilities again. It found that it may not be able to withstand horizontal movements triggered by even half the anticipated strongest earthquake, and that it could collapse into the side of an adjacent building.

That information was not conveyed to the company’s division in charge of the NRA’s screening, and thus escaped notice from NRA inspections.

Takafumi Anegawa, managing executive officer of TEPCO, apologized, saying, “We did not conceal the possibility. The in-house liaison was insufficient.”

An NRA official said, “Information is not shared in the company. Lessons from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not utilized.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702150042.html

Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai, center, visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture during an emergency drill in December. He is briefed by plant chief Chikashi Shitara, right

Niigata governor Ryuichi Yoneyama stands firm against restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

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Ryuichi Yoneyama, governor of Niigata Prefecture, in Tokyo on Jan. 23.

The man blocking the world’s largest nuclear plant says he grew opposed to atomic energy the same way some people fall in love.

Previously an advocate for nuclear power, Ryuichi Yoneyama campaigned against the restart of the facility as part of his successful gubernatorial race last year in Niigata Prefecture.

He attributes his political U-turn to the “unresolved” 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the lack of preparedness at the larger facility in his own prefecture, both owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Changing my opinion wasn’t an instant realization,” Yoneyama said in an interview. “It was gradual. As people say, you don’t know the exact moment you’ve fallen in love.”

Yoneyama won’t support the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture until an investigation is complete into the chain of events that resulted in the triple meltdown at Fukushima No. 1, which he visited Wednesday. While utilities don’t need approval from local authorities to restart plants, power companies are tradition-bound not to move ahead until they get their consent.

Yoneyama, a 49-year-old doctor and native of Niigata, is one of the highest-profile local opponents pitted against a political establishment led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The establishment sees nuclear power as crucial for the country’s long-term energy security and environmental goals.

Regulations and public opinion are keeping nearly all of Japan’s atomic stations shut almost six years after the meltdowns at Fukushima, where the search has barely begun for fuel that burned through to the bottom of the reactors.

If the local governor remains firmly opposed to the restart, it will be very difficult for the reactors to come back online,” said James Taverner, an analyst at IHS Markit Ltd. “In addition to the local government, building the support and trust of local residents is key.”

A Kyodo News poll on the day of Yoneyama’s October election showed about 64 percent of Niigata voters opposed the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, known popularly as KK. The restart of the facility was one of the key issues in the race to replace Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who was famous for his tough stance against Tepco. He unexpectedly announced in August that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.

To the residents of the prefecture, Yoneyama was the candidate who would make nuclear safety a priority, while his main opponent gave off the vibe that he was a member of the reactor restarts camp, the former governor said by email.

In last year’s gubernatorial race in Kagoshima Prefecture, where Kyushu Electric Power Co. operates the Sendai nuclear plant, a three-term incumbent was defeated by an opponent campaigning to temporarily close the reactors. A district court last year barred Kansai Electric Power Co. from running two reactors at its Takahama station in Fukui Prefecture only weeks after they’d been turned back on.

Yoneyama supported bringing back online Japan’s reactors during his unsuccessful bid in 2012 for a seat in the Lower House. The country was being forced to spend more on fossil fuel imports after the disaster, so restarting the plants was needed to help the economy recover, he said at the time.

Though Yoneyama’s position switch helped secure his first electoral victory after four failed campaigns for the Diet, nuclear opponents see him driven by more than political opportunism.

I had my reservations about Yoneyama,” said Takehiko Igarashi, an official at the Niigata division of the anti-nuclear group Nakusou Genpatsu. “But after he was vetted and endorsed by the Japanese Communist Party and other smaller parties that have an anti-nuclear slant, I knew that I could trust him.”

Tepco and Abe’s government see restarting KK as one way for Japan’s biggest utility to boost profits and help manage its nearly ¥16 trillion ($139 billion) share of the Fukushima cleanup. Resuming reactors 6 and 7 will boost annual profits by as much as ¥240 billion, the utility has said.

The economic argument, however, is beginning to hold less sway, with Yoneyama saying the benefits to the local economy are “overstated.” While the prefecture risks missing out on ¥1.1 billion a year in government support without the restarts, that represents a small slice of the prefecture’s budget, which tops ¥1 trillion, according to Yoneyama.

Abe, a strong backer of nuclear power, leads a government aiming for nuclear to account for as much as 22 percent of the energy mix by 2030, compared with a little more than 1 percent now.

While restart opponents like Yoneyama demand the government guarantee the safety of the reactors, they’ve also criticized the evacuation and emergency response plans as inadequate.

In his first meeting with Tepco executives since taking office, Yoneyama earlier this month told Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose that he won’t support KK’s restart until a new evacuation plan is drawn up using the results of a Fukushima investigation. Tepco will fully cooperate with the probe and stay in communication with the governor, the company said in response to a request for comment.

Once I realized that the Fukushima disaster couldn’t be easily resolved, of course my opinion changed,” Yoneyama said. “If another accident occurs, overseas tourism will become a distant dream. Even Japanese may flee the country.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/01/national/niigata-governor-ryuichi-yoneyama-stands-firm-against-restart-of-kashiwazaki-kariwa-plant/#.WJHSePLraM9

 

Niigata governor rejects restarts in 1st meet with TEPCO execs

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Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, far right, holds talks with executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the Niigata prefectural government office on Jan. 5.

Niigata governor rejects restarts in 1st meet with TEPCO execs

NIIGATA–Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama met Jan. 5 with top executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) for the first time, reiterating his opposition to restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

It will be difficult to approve the restart as long as (the causes of) the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are not verified. In the present circumstances, I cannot accept the restart,” Yoneyama told Fumio Sudo, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., and Naomi Hirose, president of the company.

It was the first time for Yoneyama to meet with TEPCO executives since he assumed the post of Niigata governor last October. The talks were held in the Niigata prefectural government office.

Yoneyama, noting that it will take several years for the Niigata prefectural government to verify the causes of the 2011 nuclear disaster, asked the TEPCO executives to provide more information and other forms of cooperation.

In response, Sudo said, “The priority is to hear voices of local residents.”

This seemed to suggest that TEPCO will not restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant as long as the Niigata governor continues to resist the move.

A council of experts of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced late last year that the costs for dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will almost double to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion) from 11 trillion yen initially estimated in 2013.

To help cover the amount, TEPCO planned to restart two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to generate 100 billion yen in annual profits. But that now looks difficult, given Yoneyama’s firm stance on the issue of restarts.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701050067.html

Gov. says restart of nuclear plant in Niigata to take “several years”

The restart of a nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. on the Sea of Japan coast will likely take “several years,” the governor of Niigata Prefecture said Thursday, highlighting the difficulty in concluding post-2011 nuclear disaster reviews.

The utility known as TEPCO has been seeking to reactivate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s largest by generation capacity, as soon as possible to boost revenue, as it grapples with ballooning costs stemming from the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan’s northeast.

“There can be no discussions about a restart without reviewing” factors including the cause of the Fukushima nuclear accident and evacuation plans for residents, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said in his first talks with TEPCO executives since assuming office in October.

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/01/452300.html

Japan governor tells Tepco bosses nuclear plant to stay shut

The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture reiterated his opposition to the restart of Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, adding it may take a few years to review the pre-conditions for restart.

During a meeting on Thursday with Tepco Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October on his anti-nuclear platform, repeated his pledge to keep the plant shut unless a fuller explanation of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was provided.

He also said that evacuation plans for people in Niigata in case of a nuclear accident and the health impacts that the Fukushima accident have had would need to be reviewed before discussing the nuclear plant’s restart.

The restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s largest, is key to helping Tepco rebound from the aftermath of the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

The Japanese government last month nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion), increasing the pressure on Tepco to step up reform and improve its performance.

Many of Japan’s reactors are still going through a relicensing process by a new regulator set up after the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986.

Shutting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for additional years would mean that the company would have to continue relying heavily on fossil fuel-fired power generation such as natural gas.

Governors do not have the legal authority to prevent restarts but their agreement is usually required before a plant can resume operations.

Three reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant melted down after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan’s northeastern coastline and killed more than 15,000 people.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-tepco-idUSKBN14P0IK?il=0

Pro-Nuclear Candidate Wins in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant Host City

 

Pro-nuclear candidate wins mayoral race in plant host city

KASHIWAZAKI, NIIGATA PREF. – A candidate who pledged to conditionally approve the restart of the world’s biggest nuclear power plant has been elected mayor of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.

Masahiro Sakurai, a 54-year-old former member of the city’s assembly, on Sunday defeated Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former municipal employee who opposes the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex on the Sea of Japan coast.

During the campaign, Sakurai said he would not reject a restart of the power plant if Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. takes into account the opinions of nearby residents and ensures the facility’s safety.

He was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and local businesses.

Takeuchi promised not to accept the plant restart, saying it will expose the public to danger. She had official support from the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Speaking with reporters Monday morning, Sakurai repeated his pledge to gradually reduce dependence on nuclear power but that he sees value in the plant operating for a certain period of time.

He also referred to decommissioning some of the reactors, saying the process should create jobs in the city.

It remains uncertain whether Tepco will be able to resume operation of the plant due to opposition from Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October.

An agreement, though nonbinding, between the utility, Kashiwazaki and Niigata Prefecture is essential to restart the nuclear power station.

The power station straddles Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa.

Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada, who supports restarting the plant, was handed a fifth term Nov. 15 when no one ran against him.

Whether to restart nuclear facilities has dominated several local elections across Japan, especially since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are boiling water units, the same type that suffered core meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, raising safety fears.

If all of its seven units are in operation, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the world’s largest nuclear power complex, boasting a combined output capacity of around 8.2 million kilowatts.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/21/national/politics-diplomacy/pro-nuclear-candidate-wins-mayoral-race-plant-host-city/#.WDMnq1zia-c

Mayoral candidate in Japan campaigning to bring world’s biggest nuke plant back online set to be elected: exit polls

A pro-nuclear power advocate who campaigned on a platform of rebooting the world’s largest nuclear power plant is placed to win the mayoral election in the Japanese City of Kashiwazaki, in Niigata Prefecture, exit polls reported by local media showed Sunday.

According to Kyodo News, Masahiro Sakurai, 54, who formerly worked for the city council in Kashiwazaki, will become mayor, having beaten his opponent Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former employee of the city, who stood in opposition of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex being restarted.

Despite the likely win for Sakurai however and his plans to bring the mega-plant on the Sea of Japan back on-line, the plant’s utility may not get the green light to restart its idled reactors, as a month earlier Ryuichi Yoneyama, an anti-nuclear candidate, won the gubernatorial election in Niigata Prefecture.

Yoneyama winning the race was a major blow to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling administration, who favors bringing the nation’s nuclear power plants, idled in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, back online, as he has unequivocally stated that he will not accept the plant being restarted.

“Let me clearly say that I cannot accept the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant under the current circumstances where I cannot protect people’s lives and live as I have promised,” Yoneyama was quoted as saying to his supporters recently, with reference to major concerns in the area over the plant’s checkered safety record.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station that Sakurai wants to reboot is located in the towns of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan, and was central to Yoneyama’s winning campaign, with incumbent Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who was not seeking reelection, also voicing skepticism over the safety of the plant’s restart.

For the power station, with a potential output of 8.2 million kilowatts making it the largest in the world to be restarted, an accord has to be struck between the city, the prefecture and the utility, with Yoneyama likely to be the bottle-neck.

Safety concerns have been rife in the region as the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s Nos. 6 and 7 units use the same boiling water technique as the reactors at TEPCO’s Daiichi plant in Fukushima that suffered multiple meltdowns in 2011, leading to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant itself has been no stranger to accidents and controversy and in 2007 an earthquake caused reactors at the plant to catch fire and leak radioactive materials. As with Fukushima Daiichi, the plant is also owned and operated by the embattled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is currently under state control.

Following TEPCO’s numerous coverups, continued misinformation and other monumental gaffes related to the ongoing Fukushima disaster, public opinion towards the utility, and, by default, the government here, has remained indignant and distrusting.

http://www.traderplanet.com/news/view/130585/

Pro-reactor restart candidate wins mayoral race

Voters in a Japanese city that hosts an offline nuclear power plant have chosen their new mayor. Independent Masahiro Sakurai conditionally supports plans to restart the plant.
He defeated the only other candidate, who opposes the restart, in the election in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Sunday.
Sakurai endorses the plan to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant with some conditions, including ensuring its safety. He also insists that the number of nuclear plants needs to be reduced in the future.
During his campaign, Sakurai said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, as well as the central government should play a proactive role in preventing nuclear disasters. He promised to work for necessary legal revisions.
Sakurai also urged the city to overcome the division regarding the restart.
He garnered support from local business leaders and many municipal assembly members.
Last month, a candidate with a cautious stance toward the restart won the election to become the prefecture’s governor.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161121_02/

Mayoral race kicks off in nuke plant host city of Kashiwazaki

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Masahiro Sakurai (left), a former Kashiwazaki city assemblyman, and Eiko Takeuchi, a former Kashiwazaki municipal government worker, kick off campaigning Sunday for a mayoral race set for Nov. 20.

Campaigning for the mayoral race in the city of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, kicked off  Sunday, with two candidates locking horns over whether to approve the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

Masahiro Sakurai, 54, a former Kashiwazaki city assemblyman, and Eiko Takeuchi, 47, a former Kashiwazaki municipal government worker, registered their candidacies in the Nov. 20 election to choose a successor to incumbent Mayor Hiroshi Aida, who decided not to see a fourth term.

Sakurai said he would approve the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s nuclear plant if assured of Kashiwazaki citizens’ safety.

Takeuchi, backed by the opposition Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party, however, has said she would demand that the plant, which straddles Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa, be left offline.

Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, who is reluctant to allow the plant to resume operations, won the gubernatorial election last month.

Mayoral race kicks off in nuke plant host city of Kashiwazaki