Majority of local leaders approve Japanese restarts

07 January 2013

Over half of the mayors of municipalities near Japan's nuclear power plants said they would approve the restart of reactors after the nuclear regulator confirms their safety, a survey has found.

In the survey - conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in December - the mayors of 135 cities, towns and villages within a 30 km radius of a nuclear power plant were asked their opinions on the restart of those reactors.

Conditions sought

When asked what major conditions should be set, 50 mayors said that it should be the central government's decision, while 42 said that there should be the consent and understanding of local governments. Mayors of 37 municipalities said that there should be consensus among local residents. Restarts should depend on a review of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to 33 mayors, while a similar number said they should depend on implementation of measures set by revised disaster management guidelines.

Some 49% (66) of the mayors who responded said that they would only give their approval if certain conditions were met. Mayors saying they would conditionally approve reactor restarts included those of Mutsu, Aomori prefecture, and Sasebo, Nagasaki prefecture, close to the Higashidori and Genkai plants, respectively. While the mayor of Mutsu said that reactor operation should "be resumed from the viewpoint of rejuvenating industry," the mayor of Sasebo said, "It is necessary for the central government to provide local residents with detailed explanations about why the nuclear reactors have no safety problems."

The mayors of just six municipalities said that they would unconditionally approve the restarts. The mayor of Suttsu - a town close to Hokkaido Electric Power Co's Tomari nuclear power plant - said he would approve the plant's restart "for the sake of a stable power supply."

However, the mayors of 24 municipalities (18%) said that they would not approve the restart of nearby reactors. Another 37 mayors (28%) either did not respond or gave invalid answers to the survey.

Mayors of six of the 11 municipalities within 30 km of Chubu Electric Power Co's Hamaoka plant said they were against restarting the plant. The mayor of Yoshida in Shizuoka prefecture said he was against reactivating it as "a nuclear accident would have an extremely high possibility of affecting residents' lives."

All of Japan's nuclear power plants, which normally produce some 30% of the country's electricity, were taken out of service following on from the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 which wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To date, only two of the country's reactors - Kansai Electric's Ohi 3 and 4 - have been allowed to restart after completing the program of safety checks mandated by the Japanese government following the accident. A new legal safety framework which will enable more reactors to restart is being drawn up by the NRA, but is not likely to be in place until July.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News