22 Août 2017
August 22, 2017
Municipalities near nuclear plants want say over restarts
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
More than half of municipalities within a 30-kilometer radius of nuclear power plants insist their approval must be sought for restarts, but only 6 percent of local governments that host such facilities agree.
The finding that 53 percent of municipalities require prior consultations came in a survey by The Asahi Shimbun undertaken two years after a reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture went back online in August 2015, the first to do so under new, more stringent nuclear regulations adopted in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The mayor of Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki Prefecture, said local governments beyond host communities "need" to have a say over restarts as the central government revised its nuclear emergency guidelines in 2012 to require municipalities within the 30-km radius to have evacuation plans in place in the event of a serious accident.
Before the Fukushima accident, only local governments within 8-10 km of a nuclear power plant had to do so.
The mayor of Misato, Miyagi Prefecture, said his town’s approval should be sought for a restart because a “local government not receiving economic benefits can make a levelheaded judgment on the pros and cons of resumed operations.”
Host communities receive grants and subsidies from the central government, in addition to taxes and other revenue sources related to power generation.
In the survey, The Asahi Shimbun contacted the heads of 155 local governments that either host or are situated within a 30-km radius of the 16 nuclear plants across the nation, excluding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The figure includes the prefectural government of Hokkaido and 20 other prefectural authorities that host plants.
As things stand, there are no legal steps that an operator of a nuclear facility must take, such as winning the consent of a host municipality or the prefectural government, before a plant’s restart.
The Sendai nuclear plant went back online after operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. got the go-ahead only from Satsuma-Sendai, which hosts the plant, and Kagoshima Prefecture for a resumption of operations.
The survey found that Mihama, home to Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama nuclear plant, was against the notion of asking nearby municipalities for their approval for a restart.
“Only a host community has a history of contributing to the safe operation of a nuclear plant,” the mayor said.
Of all the local governments, 61 heads called for legal procedures to be adopted with respect to restarts. All these calls came from municipalities located in areas surrounding nuclear power plants, except for one.
“As long as nuclear energy has been promoted as a state program, the central government should take responsibility for setting the legal framework for a restart,” said the mayor of Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture.
The mayor of Imari, Saga Prefecture, echoed a similar view.
“Things remain ambiguous because no legal procedures are in place,” the mayor said. “The government is reluctant to enshrine the steps into law because that will make restarts harder. However, the central government should also listen to what people in municipalities beyond host communities have to say.”
The survey also found that calls for plant operators to gain the consent of the municipalities within a 30-km radius of a proposed restart have somewhat abated among 35 local governments, where nuclear plants have resumed operations.
Ten heads sided with this view in the current survey, down from 13 in the previous survey in autumn 2014.
Another 10 leaders called for setting up legal procedures for restarts, compared with 14 in the last survey.
Apart from the Sendai nuclear plant, Ikata in Ehime Prefecture and Takahama in Fukui Prefecture are currently operating.
Municipalities situated close to facilities that are expected to go back online in the near future are now taking a more clear-cut stance on nuclear energy issues.
Representatives from cities around the Genkai nuclear plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, formed a group to present a united front against moves to resume its operations, which is expected this winter.
Although the mayors of Hirado and Matsuura, both in Nagasaki Prefecture, did not take a stance in the 2014 survey, they joined the municipalities against the restart in the latest poll, bringing municipalities opposed to the restart to four, or half of the eight local governments within a 30-km radius of the facility.
The Genkai town hall and the Saga prefectural government have already agreed to resuming plant operations.
(This article was written by Natsuki Okamura, Rei Inoue and Yusuke Fukui.)