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Difficult to balance growth and safety

Survey: 45% of local leaders want nuclear phaseout; 35% say reactors are needed

February 25, 2013




Fewer than half of prefectural and municipal leaders near nuclear plants believe nuclear power should be phased out in Japan, reflecting the struggles of communities in balancing economic growth and safety, a survey showed.

Only four of the 156 local leaders surveyed by The Asahi Shimbun said Japan does not need nuclear power plants.

Fifty-five, or 35.2 percent, of the leaders said nuclear plants are necessary in Japan. Specifically, nine said they think “nuclear plants will continue to be necessary into the future” and 46 said they are “necessary for the time being.”

The survey cover 21 prefectural governments and 135 municipalities located within 30 kilometers of nuclear power plants.

“They are necessary until new power sources that will resolve the issues of global warming and economic efficiency become available,” said Jitaro Yamaguchi, the mayor of Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, where the Mihama nuclear plant is located.

Kazuhiko Yamashita, the mayor of Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, home to the Ikata nuclear plant, said, “We should utilize nuclear plants that are confirmed safe and make efforts not to slow down economic activities.”

Twenty-six of the local chiefs did not comment or provide valid responses.

Among the 71 leaders, or 45.5 percent, who said “nuclear plants should be phased out,” four said nuclear power should be abandoned within 10 years. Eleven said the phaseout period should be completed within 20 years, while eight said Japan should be nuclear-free within 30 years.

Others in favor of a nuclear phaseout did not give a preferred time frame.

Kagoshima Mayor Hiroyuki Mori said Japan should denuclearize itself “when civilian life and economic and industrial activities become insusceptible (to the change).”

The four leaders who said nuclear plants are unnecessary in Japan were the leaders of Misato in Miyagi Prefecture, Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture, Iki in Nagasaki Prefecture, and Shohei Kitamura, the mayor of Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture.

“Given that Japan could overcome the electricity shortage during summer, it is doubtful whether (nuclear plants) are really necessary” Kitamura said.

Shizuoka Prefecture is home to the Hamaoka nuclear plant, which is believed to be at risk of being hit by a towering tsunami up to 19 meters high following the long-expected earthquake along the Nankai Trough southwest of Tokyo.

Among all 11 local government leaders in and near Shizuoka Prefecture, nine, including Kitamura, said “nuclear plants should be phased out” or are “not necessary.”

The 71 leaders who want a phaseout of nuclear energy include the chiefs of four municipalities that host nuclear plants. They are the mayors of Futaba and Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, and Kashiwazaki in Niigata Prefecture.

“The central government should reveal the risks of nuclear plants to the public and decide whether to abandon nuclear power generation through a referendum,” said Yoshifumi Sekiguchi, the mayor of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, located within 30 km of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Fukui Prefecture has 13 commercial nuclear reactors, the most in Japan. The mayors of Echizen city, Echizen town and Sabae city, all in the prefecture, said “nuclear plants should be phased out.”

The survey asked about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to drop the “zero nuclear power generation policy” that was adopted by his predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, in light of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011.

Sixty-six, or 42.3 percent, of the local leaders said they “fully support” or “generally support” Abe’s policy.

“The Hamaoka plant and other plants located in regions at higher risk should not be restarted,” said Shigeki Nishihara, the mayor of Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture. “But if they are confirmed safe and we win the consent of residents, we can accept temporary operations.”


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