22 Juin 2016
June 17, 2016
By YASUKAZU AKADA/ Staff Writer
The narration over uplifting music boasts of repeated safety drills and enhanced capabilities to judge and act in nuclear plant emergencies.
Workers in blue uniforms and hard hats appear, declaring: “We will devote our entire energy to drills so that we can deal with any circumstance.”
This TV commercial in Niigata Prefecture never fails to draw a look of disgust from a 41-year-old woman.
The woman and her two children, then aged 1 and 3, were forced to flee their home in Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture after the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The crippled plant is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the producer of that commercial.
“The mess caused by the nuclear accident has yet to be cleaned up,” she said. “There are still evacuees facing hardships because they have no prospects for the future. If TEPCO has money to use for commercials, it should use it to support the evacuees.”
TEPCO, in fact, created six different commercials for an advertising campaign that started in June last year. The commercials have been aired a total of 320 times a month on four private broadcasting stations based in Niigata Prefecture, according to the utility.
By promoting the safety of nuclear power through the commercials, TEPCO hopes to gain support for its plan to resume operations at some of the seven reactors of its now-idle Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.
The commercials have drawn the opposite reaction from many of about 3,000 evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture who currently live in Niigata Prefecture.
In April this year, residents and evacuees in Niigata Prefecture visited TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo and submitted a letter of protest along with about 1,900 signatures. They demanded the company suspend the commercials and disclose the costs for the campaign.
Complaints have also been directed at Chubu Electric Power Co.’s TV commercials for nuclear power generation in Shizuoka Prefecture.
The company’s first post-3/11 commercial started airing on four private broadcasting stations in 2012, mainly explaining the company’s safety measures.
In July 2015, the utility began to air an eight-part series of commercials, in which employees working at a nuclear power plant appear with the lovely voice of a female vocalist in the background.
“In order to protect this place even at midnight,” and “We will engage in a drill again today” are among the captions shown in one part titled, “Nighttime training.”
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded, Nagoya-based Chubu Electric Power suspended all reactors at its Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, under the request of the then Democratic Party of Japan-led government headed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
The utility is preparing to resume operations at some of the Hamaoka reactors, despite anxieties about the safety of the nuclear plant. The plant has been described as the most dangerous in Japan, given its proximity to a long-expected huge earthquake off the prefecture.
In 2012, a civic group made a request to Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu to hold a referendum on whether the Hamaoka plant should be restarted.
The group also presented about 165,000 signatures.
“The commercials on nuclear power plants are a unilateral strategy to improve image they project,” Shigeki Nishihara, mayor of Makinohara, located next to Omaezaki, said. “It is necessary for Chubu Electric Power to repeatedly hold dialogue and discussions with the people who have anxieties and doubts about nuclear power plants in order to educate itself.”