12 Juillet 2016
July 12, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Concern is growing among Kyushu Electric Power Co. and the central government over the new Kagoshima governor’s pledge to request a reassessment of the Sendai nuclear plant’s safety in light of the recent Kumamoto quakes.
Satoshi Mitazono, a former political reporter with TV Asahi Corp., was elected on his campaign pledge to build a “society without nuclear energy” in the July 10 gubernatorial race, defeating incumbent Yuichiro Ito.
Mitazono, 58, wants to suspend operations at the plant for a review of its emergency evacuation plan and to re-examine its safety features.
A top Kyushu Electric executive expressed bewilderment over Mitazono’s proposal.
“A governor has no legal authority to order a halt,” the official said. “On what legal basis can the plant be shut down?”
But Mitazono’s calls reflect local residents’ mounting concerns over the Sendai plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, after a series of strong tremors rocked neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture starting in mid-April.
The company allows prefectural officials to inspect the nuclear plant site, and request for it to take corrective measures based on their findings under an agreement with the prefectural and Satsuma-Sendai city governments over safety issues.
Kyushu Electric, based in Fukuoka, would likely be forced to respond in one way or another when the governor asks for the suspension of the plant, regardless of legal authority.
With two reactors in operation, Sendai is the only nuclear power station back online in the nation after it cleared the new safely regulations implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
After Mitazono emerged as the winner on July 10, Kyushu Electric’s closing stock price dropped more than 7 percent, compared to July 8, reflecting the company’s potentially gloomy prospects.
The two reactors at the Sendai plant are scheduled to be shut down in October or later for a regular check.
An official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, said it would take a prolonged period before the plant could be restarted if a review of the evacuation plan or other demands were made.
A senior Kyushu Electric official concurred that it would not be easy to go back online on a regular time schedule if such demands were made.
“It would be difficult to reactivate the reactors amid the opposition of the local government hosting the plant,” the official said.
(This article was written by Shuhei Shibata and Toshio Kawada.)