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LDP-backed candidate wins governor’s race in Niigata

A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the Niigata prefecture is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant.
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Hideyo Hanazumi, a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, celebrates his election victory in Niigata on June 10.
 
June 11, 2018
NIIGATA–A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10, but he remained unclear on whether he would approve the restart of Japan’s largest nuclear power plant.
Hideyo Hanazumi, 60, former vice commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, defeated two other candidates, including Chikako Ikeda, 57, a former Niigata prefectural assemblywoman who was supported by five opposition parties.
The election was held to replace Ryuichi Yoneyama, 50, who resigned in April over a sex scandal.
Yoneyama had shown a cautious stance toward approving the resumption of operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.
In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. That shifted the focus on whether the Niigata prefectural government and the two municipal governments of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa would give their consent to bring the reactors online.
However, Yoneyama said he first wanted to find the cause of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Hanazumi, who also received support from Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, took a cautious stance on the reactor restarts during the campaign.
When his victory became certain on the night of June 10, Hanazumi said: “I will firmly maintain the (prefectural government’s) work (of looking into the cause of the Fukushima accident). Based on the results of the work, I will make a judgment as the leader (of Niigata Prefecture).”
He also referred to the possibility of holding another election when he decides on whether to approve the reactor restarts.
Hanazumi, who was vice governor of Niigata Prefecture from 2013 to 2015, garnered 546,670 votes, compared with 509,568 for Ikeda, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
Another candidate, Satoshi Annaka, 40, a former Gosen city assemblyman, received 45,628 ballots.
Voter turnout was 58.25 percent, up 5.2 points from 53.05 percent in the previous gubernatorial election held in 2016.
During the campaign, Hanazumi kept a distance from the Abe administration and the LDP as criticism mounted against the prime minister over scandals related to school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.
Ikeda had also pledged to take over Yoneyama’s work concerning the Fukushima disaster, and she blasted the Abe administration for its pro-nuclear stance.
However, she was unable to effectively differentiate herself from Hanazumi over the restarts at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
In Tokyo, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters that Hanazumi’s victory is good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to seek a third term in the LDP presidential election in autumn.
“It’s certain that favorable winds have begun blowing,” Nikai said.
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June 13, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Niigata governor dashes TEPCO’s hopes for reactor restarts in 2019

uguhgjkmll.jpgTokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose, left, hands a report to Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama at the prefectural government office in Niigata on April 19.

NIIGATA–Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said a longer period may be needed to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, destroying Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s schedule to restart reactors there.

Yoneyama announced the possible extension of the safety-confirmation period, which he had earlier put at three or four years, at a news conference on April 19 after his meeting with TEPCO President Naomi Hirose here.

The governor said it will take time to confirm that the nuclear plant can withstand major earthquakes, especially a building that is expected to serve as the headquarters in the event of a severe accident at the site.

Only after safety is confirmed can discussions begin on restarting the nuclear plant in the prefecture, Yoneyama said.

Under TEPCO’s reconstruction plan currently being worked out, operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, one of the largest in the world, will resume in April 2019 at the earliest.

However, TEPCO needs the prefectural government’s consent to restart reactors, and Yoneyama’s words show that the utility’s plan will be impossible to achieve.

TEPCO in 2014 became aware that the headquarters building at the plant was insufficient in terms of earthquake resistance. But the company failed to disclose the shortcomings and maintained its policy of using the building as a disaster headquarters.

The deficiencies of the building came to light in February this year.

Hirose visited the Niigata prefectural government office on April 19 to explain to Yoneyama the issue of the insufficient anti-quake capabilities at the plant’s building.

He acknowledged problems in the mindset of his employees.

They had a tendency to put priority on the benefits of their own company,” Hirose told the governor.

As for the time needed to confirm safety at the nuclear plant, Yoneyama told Hirose, “The period could become longer depending on the circumstances.”

The prefectural government plans to set up a committee in June at the earliest to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

I don’t think nuclear power plants are indispensable for the economies of Japan and Niigata Prefecture,” Yoneyama said at the news conference after his meeting with Hirose.

The reactor restarts, however, may be crucial for TEPCO’s finances.

The company needs to secure 500 billion yen (about $4.6 billion) every year for 30 years to decommission the reactors at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and pay compensation to those who evacuated after the disaster unfolded in March 2011.

Resumed operations of two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant could provide 100 billion yen a year for TEPCO.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704200028.html

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

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

March 4, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

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

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Ryuichi Yoneyama, governor of Niigata Prefecture, poses for a photograph 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

 

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

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

 

January 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

On first day in office, new Niigata governor again rejects early reactor restart

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Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama receives flowers on his first day in office Tuesday at the Niigata Prefectural Government office in the city of Niigata

NIIGATA – On his first day in office, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama reiterated his opposition to an early restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

“I can’t discuss (the matter) while the investigation is still in progress,” Yoneyama told a news conference Tuesday, referring to the probe into the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

“I can’t accept a resumption of the plant’s operation under what I understand as the current situation,” he said.

Having never before held public office, Yoneyama won a landslide victory on Oct. 16. His campaign stressed his negative stance toward the restart of the power plant that straddles the village of Kariwa and the city of Kashiwazaki.

Operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., it is the biggest nuclear power plant in the world.

Supported by three opposition parties — the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party — Yoneyama defeated a candidate backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

At his inaugural news conference, Yoneyama expressed his intention to “thoroughly investigate” the Fukushima crisis.

He referred to Tepco’s failure to quickly disclose the meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1, which a joint committee of the Niigata Prefectural Government and the company is currently investigating.

The matter will be “scrutinized to an extent at which guidelines to judge (nuclear plant) safety can be drawn up,” Yoneyama said, expressing his hope of hashing out a conclusion by the end of his four-year term.

He said he hopes to hold talks with the central government and Tepco soon on the possible restart. “It’s important to confirm each other’s positions,” he observed.

At a news conference in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there is no change in the central government’s policy of pursuing a restart of any reactor that has passed a Nuclear Regulation Authority safety examination.

“We hope to secure local support while listening sufficiently to the new governor,” Suga said.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/25/national/first-day-office-new-niigata-governor-rejects-early-reactor-restart/#.WBBIhlCNSJx.facebook

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

Niigata governor election shows anxiety about nuclear power

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The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture

In an upset, Ryuichi Yoneyama, a rookie candidate backed by the opposition Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, was elected governor of Niigata Prefecture on Oct. 16.

Yoneyama presented a tough stance toward the proposed restart of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture, which was the main election issue.

He emerged victorious in a virtual one-on-one contest against Tamio Mori, a former mayor of Nagaoka in the prefecture, who was backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito.

The outcome could be called a manifestation of the public will that wants to halt the headlong way the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to have Japan’s idled nuclear reactors brought back online.

The election highlighted the strong anxiety that Niigata Prefecture residents have concerning nuclear power.

Yoneyama said in his campaign pledge that he would not discuss the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant unless the causes of the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, its impact and the challenges it highlighted are scrutinized.

He has the responsibility to follow through on his promise and confront the central government and TEPCO, which are seeking to have the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s nuclear reactors brought back online, with a resolute attitude.

Hirohiko Izumida, the incumbent governor who has consistently taken a cautious stance toward a nuclear restart, did not seek re-election.

Attention was focused during the gubernatorial race on whether Izumida’s policy line would be succeeded. It was initially thought that Mori, a former head of the Japan Association of City Mayors who emphasized the connections he has with the central government, had an overwhelming advantage.

But Yoneyama, who announced his candidacy immediately before official campaigning started and asserted he would follow Izumida’s stance over the nuclear restart issue, turned out to have more pull.

An Asahi Shimbun survey of eligible voters in Niigata Prefecture found that, while only about 20 percent of the respondents said they approved the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, more than 60 percent opposed it. Yoneyama was elected by that public opinion.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, where seven nuclear reactors are concentrated, is one of the world’s largest nuclear plants. A serious cover-up of technical problems there came to light in 2002. The Niigata Chuetsu-oki Earthquake of 2007 resulted in a fire and the leakage of a small amount of radioactive substances there. It stands to reason that many feel anxious about plant operations.

Izumida told the central government that plans for evacuating local residents in the event of a nuclear plant disaster are not covered by the screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and called for the central government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Guideline to be improved. He also used an expert panel of the prefectural government to pursue an independent investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The governor also questioned TEPCO’s delay in announcing that core meltdowns had occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. That led to TEPCO’s acknowledgment this year of a cover-up.

One can say that Izumida has demonstrated that a prefectural governor can play various roles without leaving the safety of a nuclear plant up to the central government. The election results have shown that many residents of Niigata Prefecture want their governor to continue that stance.

The Abe administration, which defines nuclear energy as an important mainstay power source, is hoping to restart nuclear reactors that have passed NRA screenings. It also defines the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant as an indispensable step for rehabilitating the embattled TEPCO, which has virtually become a government-owned entity.

The administration, however, should sincerely face up to the public will in Niigata Prefecture.

In Kagoshima Prefecture as well, the winner in a gubernatorial election this summer was a candidate who called for a nuclear plant in the southern prefecture to be taken temporarily offline.

It is the duty of top officials responsible for national politics to listen to the voices of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610180023.html

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Prospect of Niigata nuke plant delay threatens Tepco’s Fukushima plans

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TOKYO — The election of an anti-nuclear candidate as governor of Japan’s Niigata Prefecture could hit the finances of not only Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings but the public as well, as the utility is relying on a reactor restart in Niigata to cover Fukushima cleanup costs.

The central government reached an arrangement in 2014 to extend up to 9 trillion yen ($86.6 billion currently) in interest-free loans to pay for dealing with the fallout of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Of this, 5.4 trillion yen is to go toward compensating those affected, with Tepco and other power companies, including Kansai Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power, to repay the loans. Another 2.5 trillion yen is earmarked for decontamination work, with the costs to be recouped through the sale of Tepco shares held by the government.

But more than 6 trillion yen in compensation has been paid out so far, and cost overruns on decontamination are seen as all but certain. Decommissioning work at Tepco’s Fukushima plant, such as extracting fuel, falls outside the 9 trillion yen framework.

The 2 trillion yen Tepco had aimed to secure on its own to pay for scrapping the plant will be nowhere near enough. The utility and Japan’s industry ministry had counted on bringing the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture back online, which would improve Tepco’s earnings by 240 billion yen a year. But Gov.-elect Ryuichi Yoneyama has indicated that he is not amenable to a quick restart.

An expert panel set up by the ministry started discussing how to handle the additional costs this month. It laid out a scenario in which improved profit margins at Tepco via restructuring, along with profits from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, would be used to minimize the amount shouldered by taxpayers.

The longer it takes to restart the plant in Niigata, the larger the hit will be to Tepco’s available funding for Fukushima costs. Though the utility will squeeze out some money via internal reforms, Tepco may use rate hikes to pass on to the public what it cannot cover itself. Tepco and other utilities already have raised rates to recoup part of the compensation costs. A top industry ministry official indicated that rate increases will also be on the table to pay for decommissioning.

Power companies besides Tepco could be affected as well. Since many nuclear plants in eastern Japan use boiling-water reactors like those at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, further delays could hold up other reactor restarts in the region.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Prospect-of-Niigata-nuke-plant-delay-threatens-Tepco-s-Fukushima-plans

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Niigata governor puts up additional hurdle for TEPCO

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The election Sunday of Ryuichi Yoneyama as the new governor of Niigata Prefecture may make the financial situation at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. even more unstable, as Yoneyama is cautious about restarting reactors at the company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

In the wake of the March 2011 accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, operations at all of the company’s 11 nuclear power reactors were suspended — excluding those at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which are to be decommissioned.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant holds seven of the company’s reactors, all of which have been idle since March 2012.

TEPCO has applied for safety inspections to be carried out by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on two of the reactors at the plant.

TEPCO’s dependence on crude oil and liquefied natural gas has deepened because the company relies mainly on thermal power generation. As thermal power plants are affected by the import prices of the fuels, the situation is weighing on TEPCO’s financial situation.

If just one reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant can be reactivated, TEPCO’s annual profit is expected to rise by up to about ¥100 billion. The reactors can produce electric power at a lower cost than thermal power generation.

For now, TEPCO remains profitable, but this is largely because lower crude oil prices have lowered the company’s expenditures.

Though crude oil prices are currently low, prices are forecast to rise in mid- and long-term projections.

If the fuel costs of thermal power plants rise, electric power companies’ balance sheets will be adversely affected. This will make nuclear power plants increasingly important.

However, during the election campaign, Yoneyama said, “Unless examinations of the accident in Fukushima Prefecture are completed, it’s not possible to begin discussions about reactivation.”

The possibility he will tolerate swift reactivation of the reactors is very low, even if the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant passes the NRA’s safety inspections.

The total amount of compensation for those adversely affected by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has surpassed ¥6 trillion, and the amount is likely to grow.

It is also assumed that work to decommission the reactors that caused the accident will cost trillions of yen. Thus TEPCO has asked for assistance from the government.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry began discussions this month about TEPCO’s future direction, and how to share the financial burden of decommissioning nuclear reactors.

Reactivation of its nuclear reactors will be key to stabilizing TEPCO’s financial situation back on track, and enable the company to procure funds for compensation for damage and future decommissioning.

Anxiety will continue to mount over TEPCO’s financial situation the longer reactivation is delayed.

Electricity rates of major electric power companies in fiscal 2015 were about 20 percent higher on average for households, and about 30 percent higher on average for corporate users, compared to before the nuclear accident.

In TEPCO’s service area, the rates for households currently stand about 20 percent higher than before the nuclear accident.

An analyst estimated that if reactors Nos. 6 and 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant are reactivated, TEPCO will be able to lower the rates by 2 to 3 percent.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003288019

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Gov’t, TEPCO should take Niigata gubernatorial election results seriously

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A candidate who is cautious about restarting idled nuclear power plants won the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election, defeating a rival backed by the ruling coalition. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) should take seriously the outcome of the election, in which the pros and cons of reactivating the utility’s atomic power station in the prefecture was a key point of contention.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, supported by the opposition Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, beat former Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito.

Mori had been expected to score an easy victory as the approval rating of the Abe Cabinet has been high and both the ruling coalition parties enjoy support from the business community and related organizations. Therefore, the results highlight prefectural residents’ deep-rooted distrust in TEPCO, the operator of the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The governing bloc’s loss in the Niigata election follows its defeat in the July Kagoshima gubernatorial race, in which journalist Satoshi Mitazono, who called on Kyushu Electric Power Co. to stop operations at its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture during his campaigning, scored a victory.

The outcome of the Niigata race also apparently shows local residents’ displeasure toward Mori, who failed to clarify his stance toward whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture should be restarted, as well as their criticism of the Abe administration that is proactively trying to reactivate atomic power plants.

Close attention was focused on the latest election because incumbent Hirohiko Izumida abandoned seeking a fourth four-year term as governor.

The reason why Izumida gave up on running in the race remains unclear. However, Izumida has continued to demand TEPCO clarify the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis as a precondition for sitting at the negotiation table to discuss whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant should be reactivated. As such, TEPCO and the Abe government had expected that the retirement of Izumida would help facilitate the resumption of operations at nuclear plants.

As the election campaign went on, however, Yoneyama, who declared that he would take over Izumida’s policy line, garnered growing support from local voters. Alarmed by the situation, LDP heavyweights, including Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, delivered campaign speeches and urged the local business community and industry organizations to vote for Mori.

Numerous voters in Niigata, who saw the LDP’s desperate efforts to persuade local voters to vote for Mori, probably felt the old-fashioned culture of the LDP. During his campaigning, Mori emphasized his experience of serving as president of the Japan Association of City Mayors to demonstrate his close relations with the national government. However, he gave local voters the impression that he was hesitant to clarify his position on reactivation of atomic power plants.

Many challenges have been left unaddressed by Izumida, such as whether the evacuation plan for local residents in case of an accident at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is appropriate. Yoneyama must address these challenges as he pledged during his campaigning.

The manner in which the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) approached the election was poor. The DP did not officially support Yoneyama although the party had initially planned to field him in the next House of Representatives election because the TEPCO union has strong influence within the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which is a major supporting organization for the party. However, DP leader Renho did an about-face and delivered campaign speeches for Yoneyama in the final phase of the campaign apparently after being convinced that he would win.

The DP cannot win support from voters unless the party discusses its nuclear power policy and clarifies its stance on the issue.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161017/p2a/00m/0na/009000c

October 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Niigata Newly Elected Governor Says No Restart for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, Tepco’s World Biggest Nuclear Power Plant

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Japanese anti-nuclear candidate wins election at site of world’s biggest atomic power station

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the newly elected governor of Niigata, says he will not restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station shut down after Fukushima

An anti-nuclear candidate has been elected in a region of Japan that houses the world’s biggest atomic power station, striking a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by leftwing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata, north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected on Sunday. Shares in Tokyo Electric Power fell 8% on Monday after the news broke.

The vote was dominated by concerns about the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe. The result represents a challenge to the government’s energy policy.

As I have promised all of you, under current circumstances where we can’t protect your lives and your way of life, I declare clearly that I can’t approve a restart,” the 49-year-old told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Cheers of “Banzai!” erupted as media began projecting him the winner over former mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Yoneyama had more than 500,000 votes to about 430,000 for Mori with 93% of the vote counted, public broadcaster NHK said. Voters opposed restarting the plant by 73% to 27%, according to an exit poll by the broadcaster.

Mori, a former construction ministry bureaucrat, apologised to his supporters for failing to win the election.

Yoneyama, who has run unsuccessfully for office four times, promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, to restart the plant.

Reviving the seven-reactor site, which has a capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30% of the nation’s needs.

The election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running, more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco didn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said had happened in Fukushima. He said the company didn’t have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/17/japanese-anti-nuclear-candidate-wins-election-at-site-of-worlds-biggest-atomic-power-station

Setback for operator of world’s largest atomic plant as anti-nuclear doctor elected Niigata governor

NIIGATA – Sunday’s victory of an anti-nuclear activist in the Niigata gubernatorial election is a setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy.

Doctor-lawyer Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, defeated the candidate endorsed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. Former construction ministry bureaucrat Tamio Mori, 67, was expected until the last moment to cruise to victory.

Yoneyama has never held office.

Campaigning for Sunday’s vote was dominated by concerns over the future of the world’s biggest atomic power station, the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex. Nationwide, all but two reactors are shut down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and Abe has pushed hard for restarts.

Under current circumstances where we can’t protect the lives and the way of life of citizens in the prefecture, I can’t approve a restart,” Yoneyama told reporters on Monday.

Supported by the Japanese Communist Party and two other small parties, Yoneyama secured close to 530,000 votes. Mori trailed with 465,000.

The focus will now be how Yoneyama will be able to cooperate with local municipalities and the central government in creating evacuation plans for nuclear disasters. These will be key before restarts can take place.

Abe, meanwhile, told a Diet committee that he will respect the choice of Niigata and that he will cooperate with the new governor.

Shares in Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., which operates the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors, fell 8 percent on Monday.

The complex has a capacity of 8 gigawatts. Its revival is key to saving Tepco, which was brought low by the Fukushima meltdowns and hydrogen explosions, and then repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Senior management at Tepco have made it clear that restarting the Kashiwazaki reactors is fundamentally important to restoring their finances,” Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Tokyo-based consultant Mathyos, said by email. “There now has to be significant uncertainty over restarting those reactors.”

Yoneyama’s victory came after Tepco President Naomi Hirose highlighted the utility’s financial vulnerability this month. He said it may face insolvency if it were to recognize the cost of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Resumption of operations at just one of Kashiwazaki Kariwa’s reactors would boost the utility’s profit by about ¥10 billion a month, the company has said.

Yoneyama previously tried to run for office four times. He was unsuccessful.

In this election, he promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco to restart the plant. Tepco supplies about a third of Japan’s electricity.

As the race tightened, the election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The talk was of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but I think the result will affect nuclear restarts across the country,” said Shigeaki Koga, a former trade and industry ministry official who is a critic of nuclear restarts and the Abe administration.

Koga said it was important that Yoneyama join forces with another newly elected governor skeptical of nuclear restarts, Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Without strong support from others, it won’t be easy to take on Tepco,” he said.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco lacks the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said happened in Fukushima. He said the company did not have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the top priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/17/national/politics-diplomacy/setback-operator-worlds-largest-atomic-plant-anti-nuclear-doctor-elected-niigata-governor/#.WARoUSQzYU1

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear Candidate wins Japan Regional Election, Blow to Nuclear Restarts

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Nuclear foe Ryuichi Yoneyama wins Niigata gubernatorial poll, threatening Tepco reactor restart hopes

NIIGATA – An anti-nuclear candidate won Niigata’s gubernatorial election Sunday, dealing a potential blow to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s attempts to restart the world’s biggest atomic power station.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and was backed mostly by left-wing parties, won the race for governor, an election dominated by concerns over the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe of March 2011.

Final results show Yoneyama beat former Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, who was backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party.

Yoneyama gathered more than 528,000 votes, about 60,000 more than Mori. Voter turnout was 53.05 percent, up significantly from the 43.95 percent in the previous gubernatorial poll, held in 2012.

It’s really regrettable. We will take the judgment of voters very seriously,”said Keiji Furuya, a Lower House member who served as head of Mori’s election campaign office.

Yoneyama promised to continue the policy of the departing governor, who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity, to restart the plant.

Reviving the seven-reactor giant, with capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was battered by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of coverups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once provided about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/17/national/politics-diplomacy/anti-nuclear-candidate-yoneyama-leading-niigata-gubernatorial-election/

Anti-nuclear novice wins Japan election, blow to nuclear restarts

An anti-nuclear candidate won an upset victory in a Japanese regional election on Sunday, a blow to Tokyo Electric Power’s attempts to restart the world’s biggest atomic power station and a challenge to the government’s energy policy.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, a doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed mostly by left-wing parties, won the race for governor of Niigata north of Tokyo, Japanese media projected, in a vote dominated by concerns over the future of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station and nuclear safety more than five years after the Fukushima catastrophe of March 2011.

“As I have promised all of you, under current circumstances where we can’t protect your lives and your way of life, I declare clearly that I can’t approve a restart,” Yoneyama told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

Cheers of “Banzai!” erupted as media began projecting him the winner over former mayor Tamio Mori, 67, backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and initially favored for an easy victory.

Yoneyama had more than 500,000 votes to about 430,000 for Mori with 93 percent of the vote counted in the region on the Japan Sea coast, public broadcaster NHK said.

Mori, a former construction ministry bureaucrat, apologized to his supporters for failing to win the election.

Yoneyama, who had run unsuccessfully for office four times, promised to continue the policy of the outgoing governor who had long thwarted the ambitions of Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, to restart the plant.

Reviving the seven-reactor giant, with capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving the utility, which was brought low by the Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is vital to Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30 percent of the nation’s needs.

As the race tightened, the election became a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

“The talk was of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but I think the result will affect nuclear restarts across the country,” said Shigeaki Koga, a former trade and industry ministry official turned critic of nuclear restarts and the Abe administration.

Koga told Reuters it was important that Yoneyama join forces with another newly elected governor skeptical of nuclear restarts, Satoshi Mitazono of Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan. “Without strong support from others, it won’t be easy to take on Tepco,” he said.

TROUBLES

Tepco spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said the company couldn’t comment on the choice of Niigata governor but respected the vote and would strive to apply the lessons of the Fukushima disaster to its management of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

Niigata voters opposed restarting the plant by 73 percent to 27 percent, according to an NHK exit poll.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, said on the campaign trail that Tepco didn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he said had happened in Fukushima. He said the company didn’t have a solid evacuation plan.

The LDP’s Mori, meanwhile, was forced to tone down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightened, media said, insisting safety was the top priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-nuclear-election-idUSKBN12G0HM

Yoneyama, backed by opposition, wins in Niigata

NIIGATA–Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor backed by the opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, was set to win the Niigata gubernatorial election on Oct. 16, defeating three independent rookie candidates, including Tamio Mori, who was supported by the ruling coalition.

The main issue of the election was Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture, the world’s largest facility. The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspections of the offline reactors are in their final stages.

Yoneyama, 49, was also an independent rookie. He has expressed his intention to continue the stance of Governor Hirohiko Izumida, saying that he would not approve the restart of the reactors unless the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 plant is fully scrutinized. In addition, he called for a workable evacuation plan to secure the safety of local residents in the event of a serious accident.

Izumida, who is in his third term as Niigata governor, didn’t seek re-election.

Mori, 67, was backed by the the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito. Although the LDP promotes nuclear energy, Mori showed cautiousness during the campaign, saying that he would say no to a restart if the prefectural government finds a problem with it even after the NRA gives the green light to TEPCO.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610160047.html

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October 17, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

An obscure election race in Japan may decide the fate of the world’s biggest nuclear plant

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A visitor is silhouetted next to binoculars as he looks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world’s biggest, at an observatory of its exhibition hall in Kashiwazaki

NIIGATA, Japan (Reuters) – A regional election north of Tokyo between candidates most Japanese have never heard of may decide the fate of the world’s biggest nuclear plant and mark a turning point for an industry all but shut down after the Fukushima disaster.

The campaign for governor of Niigata Prefecture has boiled down to two men and one issue: whether to restart the seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station.

Reviving the seven-reactor giant, with capacity of 8 gigawatts, is key to saving Tokyo Electric Power, which was brought low by the 2011 Fukushima explosions and meltdowns, and then the repeated admissions of cover-ups and safety lapses after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Tepco, as the company supplying about a third of Japan’s electricity is known, is in turn vital to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy, which relies on rebooting more of the reactors that once met about 30 percent of the nation’s needs.

But Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, an anti-nuclear doctor-lawyer who has never held office and is backed by mostly left-wing parties, has made a tight race for governor of Niigata against an initially favored veteran politician from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-nuclear party, Japanese media say.

In a sign that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party also sees a tough contest, party heavyweights were dispatched to campaign for Tamio Mori, 67. The former mayor and construction ministry bureaucrat is seen more likely to allow Kashiwazaki-Kariwa to restart.

Distrust of Tepco, put under government control in 2012, is so high in Niigata that this election has become a litmus test for nuclear safety and put Abe’s energy policy and Tepco’s handling of Fukushima back under the spotlight.

The government wants to restart units that pass safety checks, also promoting renewables and burning more coal and natural gas.

Radiation leaks

Only two of Japan’s 42 reactors are running more than five years after Fukushima, but the Niigata plant’s troubles go back further.

Several reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have been out of action since an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks and fires in a disaster that prefigured the Fukushima calamity and Tepco’s bungled response.

A Tepco spokeswoman said the company could not comment on the election and was committed to boosting safety at the plant.

On the campaign trail in Niigata, help for Tepco is in short supply.

Yoneyama has promised to continue the outgoing governor’s policy of refusing to allow a restart unless Tepco provides a fuller explanation of the Fukushima disaster.

He has run for local office unsuccessfully four times but says this time he feels different, as the public supports his anti-nuclear, anti-Tepco message.

Yoneyama, who has worked as a radiological researcher, says Tepco doesn’t have the means to prevent Niigata children from getting thyroid cancer in a nuclear accident, as he says has happened in Fukushima. And he says the company doesn’t have a solid evacuation plan.

“As I go from town to town and village to village, I hear the same thing: ‘We want you to protect this town. We want you to protect our hometown, our lives and our children’s future,'” he told a crowd in Nagaoka this week.

The LDP’s Mori has toned down his support for restarting the plant as the race tightens, media say, and now insists that safety is the top priority for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, while promoting the use of natural gas and solar power in Niigata.

LDP heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba, a former cabinet minister and party secretary-general, told Reuters the party sent him to Niigata to campaign for Mori because “we can’t take anything for granted”.

“Mr. Mori is not a person who just acquiesces to what the national government says,” Ishiba said. “He has courage and will stand up to the government if he thinks our policies are wrong.”

http://uk.businessinsider.com/r-japan-election-key-to-worlds-biggest-nuclear-plant-and-abes-energy-policy-2016-10?r=US&IR=T

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

Niigata governor candidates must debate nuclear safety in earnest

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant is the largest nuclear plant in the world, owned by Tepco, Tepco will do anything to get it restarted.

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Official campaigning for the upcoming Niigata gubernatorial election started on Sept. 29, setting the stage for debate on the safety of a nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

The issue of the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant has gained even more traction as Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who has been cautious about approving Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart the idled plant, has announced he will not seek re-election.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspections of the offline reactors, which the electric utility is seeking to bring back online, are in their final stages.

The election inevitably revolves around whether the new governor should allow TEPCO to proceed with the plan if the NRA gives the green light.

Four independent rookie candidates are running for the poll. But the race is effectively shaping up as a one-on-one battle between Tamio Mori, the former mayor of the city of Nagaoka in the prefecture supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, and Ryuichi Yoneyama, a doctor backed by the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends.

Some 460,000 people live within 30 kilometers of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. The candidates should announce their proposals to protect the safety of these residents during campaigning for the Oct. 16 election.

Plans to ensure the safe and smooth evacuations of residents living around nuclear power plants when a serious accident occurs are described as the last safety net for nuclear power plants.

The governors of prefectures where nuclear plants are located, as the chiefs of the local governments, have to take on a huge responsibility for the safety of local residents.

Izumida has insisted that he wouldn’t start discussions on any plan to restart a reactor in his prefecture unless the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, also operated by TEPCO, is fully reviewed and explained.

He has undertaken his own investigation of the catastrophic accident by setting up an expert committee within the prefectural government.

Izumida has also criticized the fact that the new nuclear safety standards introduced after the 2011 accident don’t require plans for evacuating local residents. He has been calling on the central government to improve the standards.

In 2002, it was revealed that TEPCO had covered up damage at its nuclear power plants including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The magnitude-6.8 Niigata Chuetsu-oki offshore earthquake, which rocked Niigata Prefecture in July 2007, triggered a fire and resulted in small leaks of radiation at the plant.

Many people in the prefecture along the Sea of Japan remain deeply concerned about the safety of the nuclear plant and distrustful of TEPCO.

Izumida has responded to the concerns by raising issues about nuclear safety.

In the gubernatorial race, Yoneyama has cast himself as the candidate to carry on Izumida’s legacy.

I will take over the (nuclear power) policy of Izumida and won’t start discussions on any reactor restart unless the Fukushima disaster is fully reviewed and explained,” he has said.

Mori, who has been critical of Izumida’s political approach, has taken a different stance toward the issue.

I will put the top priority on the safety of people in the prefecture and rigorously examine the conclusion the NRA reaches (in its safety inspection),” he has said.

The difference in position on the issue between the two candidates is likely to be a key factor for Niigata voters at the polls.

The governors of prefectures hosting nuclear power plants have the “right to consent” to a plan to restart a reactor. But this is only a conventional right based on safety agreements with the electric utilities involved and has no legal basis.

When new Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono, who took office in July, asked Kyushu Electric Power Co. to suspend the operation of its Sendai nuclear power plant in the prefecture, he was criticized for undermining the central government’s energy policy.

But the criticism is off the mark. When a nuclear accident occurs, the local communities around the plant suffer the most.

To allay anxiety among residents in areas around nuclear plants, the local governments concerned, through negotiations with the operators of the plants, have established systems and rights that allow them to become involved in safety efforts.

The Fukushima disaster has only increased anxiety among residents around nuclear power plants.

The chief of the local government in an area home to a nuclear plant has every right to refuse to entrust the safety of local residents entirely to the utility and the central government.

Niigata Prefecture is not an area where TEPCO supplies power, but it has been bearing the risks involved in the operation of a massive nuclear power plant that generates electricity for the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The gubernatorial election will be a choice that directly affects the central government’s energy policy.

We are eager to see the candidates engaged in meaningful debate on the safety of the nuclear plant based on a national perspective.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610030020.html

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October 5, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Niigata Pref. Nuclear Power Opponent Governor Out of The Way

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Was he pressured to drop out?

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, said he won’t run for a fourth term and dropped out of the gubernatorial election scheduled for October 16.

The move may affect Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s efforts to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in the prefecture. According to Bloomberg, Tokyo Electric rose as much as 12 percent to 417 yen, the biggest intraday increase since May 2015, and traded at 394 yen at 9:32 a.m. Tokyo time. The Topix index rose as much as 1 percent.

Tepco Rises Most in Year After Governor Opposing Restart Retires

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, jumped the most in more than a year after a prefecture governor opposing the restart of one of its reactors abandoned his bid for re-election.

Tokyo Electric rose as much as 12 percent to 417 yen, the biggest intraday increase since May 2015, and traded at 394 yen at 9:32 a.m. Tokyo time. The Topix index rose as much as 1 percent.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture, said he won’t run for a fourth term and dropped out of the gubernatorial election scheduled for October 16, according to a personal statement posted on a website of supporters. Izumida opposed Tokyo Electric’s plan to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world’s largest facility, located in Niigata prefecture. Local government approval is typically sought by Japanese utilities before they restart nuclear reactors, though not required by law.

With Izumida out of the picture, the chance of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s reactors restarting has increased, said Hidetoshi Shioda, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, who views the retirement as a positive for Tokyo Electric shares.

Izumida had demanded that Tokyo Electric further investigate the cause of the triple meltdown at its Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in 2011 before restarting any reactors. 

The next Niigata governor will likely not make as many relentless demands as Izumida,” SMBC’s Shioda said.

Tepco, as the company is known, has applied to restart No. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Running one reactor boosts Tepco’s profits by as much as 10 billion yen ($97 million) a month, company spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said Monday.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-31/tepco-rises-most-in-year-after-governor-opposing-restart-retires

Niigata Pref. nuclear power opponent governor won’t stand for re-election

NIIGATA — Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has retracted his announcement that he will run in the upcoming gubernatorial election to seek a fourth term.

Since Izumida has adopted a cautious stance toward the restarting of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture, his decision not to run in the election will likely have a huge impact on the issue. All seven reactors at the power station, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co., have been idle since March 2012 in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The campaign for the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election is to kick off on Sept. 29.

Izumida’s decision not to run in the election is linked to his criticism of a report in the Niigata Nippo regional daily over a dispute involving a subsidiary of a shipping company funded by the prefectural government.

In an interview with news organizations, Izumida said, “It’s important to have prefectural residents know the facts, but I feel my appeal never reached the residents. Even if I requested the newspaper to correct its report, the daily would never do so, which prompted me to abandon running in the race.”

At a prefectural assembly session in February this year, Izumida announced that he would run in the gubernatorial election to seek a fourth four-year term. However, his retraction of his candidacy leaves Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, 67, who heads the Japan Association of City Mayors, as the only person who has announced his candidacy.

It came to light this past July that Japan Shipping Exchange Inc., an arbitration organization, had ordered a shipping company’s subsidiary funded by the prefectural government to pay 160 million yen to a South Korean company following a dispute over the purchase of a ferry.

The Niigata Nippo published a series of articles holding the Niigata Prefectural Government responsible for the case.

In response, the prefectural government has dismissed the accusations saying, “The daily’s coverage is incorrect,” and repeatedly urged the newspaper to correct its reports.

The Niigata Nippo is set to release a statement to express its views on the case.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160831/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

 

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment