9 Juillet 2016
July 6, 2016
The Tokyo gubernatorial election is getting a lot of media coverage, but I believe that Kagoshima’s impending choice of governor deserves just as much attention.
The prefecture is home to Japan’s sole nuclear power station currently in operation.
Yuichiro Ito, 68, who supported the restart of the Sendai nuclear power station, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seeking re-election as Kagoshima’s governor.
Running against him is Satoshi Mitazono, 58, who is demanding the Sendai plant's "temporary suspension of operation" in his campaign pledge. This is Mitazono's first bid for the governorship.
Ito declared in his speech in late June, "The sort of situation that forces you all to evacuate will never arise."
But Mitazono insists, "The plant's operation must be suspended while the active fault is being studied, and then we must review the current evacuation routes."
According to an Asahi Shimbun opinion poll, Ito and Mitazono are "evenly matched in a dead heat."
However, this election is not really about nuclear power generation. The key issue is whether the incumbent governor should be allowed to seek a fourth term.
Even though Kagoshima voters recognize nuclear power generation as an important matter, it appears to have been eclipsed by more immediate, day-to-day concerns.
After the Fukushima disaster of March 2011, Koichiro Nakamuki, 66, who lives about three kilometers from the Sendai plant, organized an independent evacuation program with 20 other households in his community. The group conducts regular drills.
Nakamuki feels that drills organized by the local administrative authorities are only half-baked. He is hoping that the gubernatorial election campaign will help stimulate public debate on nuclear power generation.
But the subject is hardly a focal issue of the imminent Upper House election, either. I don't know if that's because people have already begun to forget the Fukushima disaster, or if nuclear power generation is too much of a hot-button issue for candidates who want to play it safe.
The government's policy of limiting the duration of nuclear power plant operations to 40 years is already becoming toothless, and procedures for restarting offline reactors are proceeding without much ado.
Who should decide the nation's nuclear power generation policy? It would be disappointing to leave the decision to experts and power companies alone.
I hope the upcoming elections will encourage voters to give serious thought to their energy needs in their daily lives.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 6