JAPAN | 11 governors say nuke plants should be abolished, reduced

Posted on June 17, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 17 June 2011

Of Japan’s 47 prefectural governors, 11 said nuclear power plants should be abolished or reduced in the future, but most dodged the question, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey.

Thirty-one governors would not commit themselves, choosing “none of the answers given” or not answering the question at all.

None said nuclear power plants should be increased following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Four said nuclear power plants should be maintained at current levels, and one said they should be reduced or kept at current levels.

The governors provided written responses by June 10.

Among the 13 prefectures that host nuclear power plants, Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu said they should be reduced.

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, sits in the focal region of the long-predicted Tokai earthquake.

Kawakatsu said, “(The Fukushima accident) has not only shaken the safety of nuclear power plants but also forced Japan to review its energy policy fundamentally.”

Nine governors chose “none of the answers given,” and the governors of Fukushima, Fukui and Kagoshima prefectures did not provide answers.

Governors are not given clear authority under the law that regulates construction, operation and abolition of nuclear power plants. But they have authority to give permission under laws and regulations on related issues.

Under agreements with electric power companies, local governments that host nuclear power plants can ask for suspension if they could affect the environment.

Yamagata Governor Mieko Yoshimura and Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada said nuclear power plants should be abolished.

Yamagata Prefecture borders on Fukushima Prefecture, and Shiga Prefecture borders on Fukui Prefecture.

Yoshimura said, “Nuclear power plants should be abolished in the future as long as they contain unexpected risks.”

Kada said, “I want to ask the government and electric power companies to make a historic decision for our offspring, such as a shift from nuclear power to renewable energy.”

In addition to Shizuoka’s Kawakatsu, governors of eight prefectures–Tochigi, Saitama, Kanagawa, Nagano, Osaka, Tottori, Okayama and Kochi–said nuclear power plants should be reduced in number.

Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa has not allowed nuclear power plants shut down for regular inspections to be restarted on grounds that the government’s safety standards are insufficient.

Twenty-five governors, including those of six prefectures with nuclear power plants, said they support Nishikawa’s stance. Fukui is home to 15 nuclear reactors, the largest in Japan.

Other governors could take a hard-line stance when electric power companies plan to restart nuclear power plants shut down for regular inspections in their prefectures.

Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato did not give answers to these two questions, saying that the top priority should be putting an end to the ongoing Fukushima accident.

Fukui’s Nishikawa did not answer the question about the future of nuclear power plants.

“It is important to promote diversification of energy to prevent an excessive dependence on nuclear power,” Nishikawa said.

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