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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.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

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


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

Japanese cities say ‘no’ to nuke restart


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.

No municipalities near Hamaoka nuclear plant want restart: survey

None of the 11 municipalities within the 30-kilometer-radius urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) around the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, want the power station’s idled reactors restarted, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

The reactors at the Hamaoka plant, operated by Chubu Electric Power Co., were shut down on May 14, 2011 at the request of the central government, following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March that year. The survey, sent to the mayors of each municipality as well as Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu in April, was timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of that shutdown.

Chubu Electric is aiming to restart the Hamaoka plant’s No. 3 and 4 reactors, and has filed a request for a safety review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Mainichi survey was undertaken to assess the pros and cons of restarting the plant, and has revealed persistent local concerns over plant safety.

Five response options were included in the questionnaire on whether or not the reactors should be restarted. Among these, three of the municipal leaders said that they were “against” the restart, five said that they were “unable to make a decision at the present time,” and four answered “other.”

None of the respondents said they “agree” with the restart, or even that they “agree subject to the meeting of specific requirements.”

The three mayors who said they opposed a restart were Shigeki Nishihara from the Shizuoka prefectural city of Makinohara, Kinuyo Soneya from the city of Shimada, and Norihiko Tamura from the town of Yoshida.

Nishihara, whose city lies directly above the predicted focus of a Nankai Trough earthquake, noted that “a (nuclear) accident would endanger the very existence of the nation.”

Meanwhile, Tamura commented that “(citizens’) safety cannot be guaranteed,” and Soneya noted, “There is no guaranteed evacuation plan accompanying (the proposed restart).”

Among those who said they were “unable to make a decision at the present time” or “other,” four mayors stipulated specific stringent conditions for approving the restart. These were Kakegawa Mayor Saburo Matsui, Kikugawa Mayor Junichi Ota, Fukuroi Mayor Hideyuki Harada and Fujieda Mayor Shohei Kitamura.

Mayors Matsui and Ota listed the requirement of understanding from citizens, while Harada and Kitamura indicated conditions related to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

“The investigation of the Fukushima accident’s causes has been insufficient,” commented Mayor Harada. “As long as safety cannot be completely guaranteed, I cannot approve the (reactor) restarts.”

Mayor Kitamura noted, “The discussion regarding the plant restart should not begin until there has been a complete resolution to the problems associated with the Fukushima accident, and citizens are thoroughly at ease.”

Meanwhile, Omaezaki Mayor Shigeo Yanagisawa noted that “safety checks are ongoing,” and accordingly answered that he was “unable to make a decision” on the reactor restarts.

Gov. Kawakatsu similarly responded that he was “unable to make a decision,” and added, “Unless safety can be guaranteed, there is no way (that the restart would be approved).”

Chubu Electric officials commented that they will “do everything possible to ensure safety.”


May 15, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment