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Better the devil you know

April 16, 2012



Hamaoka nuclear host city reacts angrily to anti-nuclear forces



OMAEZAKI, Shizuoka -- Voters in this city, home to the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, favored incumbent Mayor Shigeo Ishihara over two other candidates in the April 15 mayoral election after heeding his election campaign promise that he will listen to local residents and carefully guide the city when it comes to restarting the idled nuclear station.

The city, southwest of Tokyo, has co-existed with the power plant of Chubu Electric Power Co. for more than 35 years, and the latest election focused on the fate of the idled nuclear power plant.

Two rookies -- former city assemblyman Katsuhisa Mizuno and travel agent Haruhisa Muramatsu -- took on the incumbent mayor by vowing not to approve the plant's reactivation and by calling for the decommissioning of the plant, respectively.

But voters opted for Ishihara over the two rookies apparently out of consideration for the city's long association with nuclear power.

Mayor Ishihara has pursued a conciliatory approach toward Chubu Electric Power while cooperating with the central government in going along with a pluthermal or plutonium-thermal program.

But Ishihara said after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant that the nuclear safety myth was over. But at the same time, he asked Chubu Electric Power to beef up measures against tsunami in an effort to keep the option open for restarting the idled Hamaoka plant.

But the city's fiscal 2011 budget totaling 16.8 billion yen, crafted before the nuclear plant was suspended last May, shows that nuclear-related subsidies and fixed property tax accounted for about 40 percent. If the power plant goes offline permanently, it will be difficult for the city to maintain public facilities that have been built or are under construction thanks to such subsidies. City residents know that and made the "realistic choice" to re-elect Ishihara.

But there is no clear-cut indication of how the city is going to implement measures against projections by an expert panel under the Cabinet Office that a tsunami of up to 21 meters may hit the city along the Pacific coast.

Omaezaki and surrounding municipalities will face heated debate, as in the case of the Oi Nuclear Power Plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (By Susumu Funatsu, Kakegawa Bureau)

April 16, 2012(Mainichi Japan)


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