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Niigata governor quitting will affect nuclear future

April 18, 2018


Niigata governor to quit




Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has announced he's stepping down over an alleged sex scandal. His sudden departure throws into question the future of a nuclear power plant in the central Japan prefecture. Yoneyama has been cautious about the plant operator's efforts to restart the facility.

Yoneyama held a news conference on Wednesday, the day before a weekly magazine was expected to run a story about the scandal.

Yoneyama revealed that he had tendered his resignation earlier in the day to the chairperson of the prefectural assembly.

He said he decided to resign to avoid further turmoil and take responsibility for his actions. He added that he wanted to offer his sincere apology for undermining the trust of many people.

Yoneyama was elected governor in October 2016, with the recommendation of the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

He has been cautious about the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in the prefecture.

It is run by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The utility has been seeking local consent to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.


Governor quits over sex scandal, affects nuclear reactor restart



April 18, 2018 (Mainichi Japan)


NIIGATA (Kyodo) -- Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said Wednesday he will resign after admitting to a sex scandal in a move affecting the approval process for the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s nuclear reactors in the central Japan prefecture.

"I sincerely offer apologies for betraying the trust of many people," Yoneyama told a press conference, admitting that his relationship with a woman, as described in a weekly magazine due out Thursday, may "look to some as prostitution."


Shukan Bunshun magazine alleged in an online teaser article Wednesday that the 50-year-old governor has been paying money to have sex with a 22-year-old college student. At a news conference Wednesday, the governor said he gave a woman he met online "presents and money so she would like me more."


Since being elected governor in 2016, Yoneyama has refrained from approving the restart of the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex.


The governor has said he cannot make the decision until the prefectural government completes its own assessment of what caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.


All seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units are boiling water reactors, the same as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where three of six reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Last December, two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex cleared safety reviews under the stricter, post-Fukushima regulations.


On Tuesday, Yoneyama said he would consider whether to quit over a forthcoming magazine article about a "woman issue." Calls for his resignation were growing in the Niigata prefectural assembly.


The gubernatorial election to pick Yoneyama's successor is expected to be held in early June. Yoneyama will resign with two and a half years of his term remaining.


The seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is one of the world's largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.


Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, Tepco is keen to resume operation of its reactors to improve its financial performance.


The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supports restarting nuclear reactors that have cleared post-Fukushima safety reviews.


Yoneyama won the Niigata governorship in October 2016 with the support of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which are both opposed to nuclear power. He defeated contenders including a candidate backed by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito.


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