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Memo: Residents got 3 billion yen to host Hamaoka nuclear plant

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Holders of documents and memos of a residents group run 16 meters in length. The papers, related to Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear power plant, are stored at Rikkyo University’s Research Center for Cooperative Civil Societies in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward.

Researchers now have a clearer idea of how much it costs to win over residents in a town hosting the most dangerous nuclear facility in Japan. The price is at least 3 billion yen ($28.3 million) over two decades, according to a memo on display at a university in Tokyo.

The memo was part of a trove of documents kept by the head of a residents group in Hamaoka, Shizuoka Prefecture, where Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear power plant is located.

The documents, on display at Rikkyo University’s Research Center for Cooperative Civil Societies in Toshima Ward since May, also show how the “cooperation money” was used to improve the town, including infrastructure projects, and add beauty to a festival.

In addition, the documents provide details of the residents’ demands and how the money was distributed.

“As far as I know, this is the first time that a series of documents produced by the party that accepted hosting the nuclear plant has been disclosed,” said Tomohiro Okada, professor of local economy at Kyoto University’s graduate school. “Utilities were struggling to secure land for a nuclear power station, so it was their old trick to win over opponents with money.”

He said researchers are aware that electric companies have used such tactics across the nation. But they were largely in the dark about details of this approach because the utilities’ financial statements have not provided any information on the topic.

Genkichi Kamogawa, who chaired the Sakura district council for countermeasures for the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, preserved the memo and the in-house documents in 723 folders.

Kamogawa died in 1999 at the age of 84. His relatives offered the papers to the university after his death.

The town of Hamaoka is now part of Omaezaki.

The Hamaoka plant has been described as the most dangerous nuclear plant in Japan because of its proximity to a long-expected huge earthquake off the prefecture.

The nuclear plant was shut down in May 2011 under the request of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, following the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Chubu Electric now plans to restart reactors at the Hamaoka plant.

The Nagoya-based utility approached the town of Hamaoka in 1967 about plans to build the nuclear power plant there. The residents council was formed in August 1968 to gather opinions about the project.

Kamogawa had held a senior position at the council from the start, including chairman between fiscal 1978 and fiscal 1990. He also served as a member of the Hamaoka town assembly.

The in-house documents include the council’s financial reports. They also show minutes of meetings where requests were compiled in relation to construction of new reactors at the plant.

The council had enormous sway over the fate of Chubu Electric’s plans to add reactors to the plant. The utility’s donations for each reactor were listed in the documents.

Kamogawa’s memo showed that the donations had reached 3 billion yen by the end of August 1989, after construction of the No. 4 reactor had started.

The council also devised its own system to receive the flow of money coming from Chubu Electric and other organizations.

The council’s terms stipulated that the donations should be used to contribute to the welfare of residents and development of their community.

The money was spent to build roads, a sewage system, parks, a disaster-preparedness facility, and lights for security.

One of the documents also stated that 10 million yen each was given to four neighborhood associations in the town to create gorgeous floats for a festival.

Kazuo Shimizu, 91, who succeeded Kamogawa in fiscal 1991 as the council’s chairman, said the acceptance of donations was meant for the betterment of the local community.

“We should benefit from the nuclear power plant project,” said Shimizu, a former Hamaoka assemblyman. “We genuinely wanted to improve the town’s infrastructure.”

A Chubu Electric official in charge of local community affairs acknowledged that the company offered the money to the council.

“It was expected of us to help invigorate the host community since we were causing local residents trouble,” the official said. “But we cannot give details, such as the amount of money.”

The two oldest reactors at the Hamaoka plant are now being decommissioned.

Chubu Electric plans to bring the remaining three reactors online by spending 400 billion yen to build 22-meter high sea walls to protect the plant from a powerful tsunami.

July 27, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment