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Interview with Kyoto governor

Kyoto gov. says gov't should clarify its responsibility for nuclear power policy



KYOTO -- Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada pointed out that there are problems that need to be addressed before the national government approves the restart of idled nuclear reactors, such as safety measures for residents of areas hosting nuclear plants in case of an accident.

In an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, the 59-year-old governor also urged the central government to clarify its responsibility for Japan's nuclear power policy.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Question: Kyoto Prefecture neighbors the Fukui Prefecture city of Oi that hosts Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi Nuclear Power Plant. As heads of local governments neighboring nuclear plants, you and the governor of Shiga Prefecture jointly recommended that the national government ensure transparency of its nuclear power policy. Do you think your recommendation has been sufficiently reflected in the new safety regulations enforced recently by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA)?

Answer: Members of the general public are worried that the central government has failed to sufficiently clarify the cause of the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. And it remains to be seen how far the new safety regulations will dispel the public's concern. It's hard to understand why electric power companies have been given a grace period to implement safety measures under the new regulations. Moreover, the regulations don't provide for sufficient measures to respond to an accident, such as how to ensure the safety of residents around nuclear plants. There remain tasks that must be addressed before restarting idled nuclear reactors.

Q: There are calls within industries urging that the government approve reactivation of nuclear power stations to ensure stable supply of less expensive electric power. How would you react to such calls?

A: As a member of the Union of Kansai Governments, Kyoto Prefecture left a final decision on whether to reactivate the Oi power station to the national government because we feared that a power shortage in summer could pose a threat to the lives and safety of prefectural residents. However, the Kyoto Prefectural Government's basic position is to create a society that needs to rely on as little nuclear power as possible. If the national government intends to promote the restart of nuclear plants, it should show responsible measures to decommission aging reactors and deal with spent nuclear fuel.

Q: Power suppliers warn that they wouldn't be able to balance their budgets and would be forced to raise their electricity charges unless they were allowed to restart their nuclear plants. What do you think about such a view?

A: An energy strategy is the core of basic national policy along with diplomacy and security. I doubt that it should be dealt with as a matter of one company's profitability or utility charges. The lesson of the Fukushima nuclear crisis is that nuclear plants (which could cause serious damage in case of an accident) can't be considered simply from the viewpoint of private companies' management. The government should further clarify its own responsibility for Japan's nuclear power policy.

Q: The national government is looking for a site for a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel, isn't it?

A: The central government has asked the National Governors' Association to hold talks about the issue. Because nuclear plants had been in operation for many years, spent nuclear fuel had continued to accumulate. The government can't work out an energy strategy without addressing the issue. Moreover, there will be no solution to the problem if local bodies continue to say, 'We need energy but don't want a disposal facility.' The issue of building a final disposal facility is what the whole nation should decide. I wonder what conditions the national government will offer to ask a local community to host a final disposal facility and how to win understanding of local residents. I think the national government's ability to deal with the matter is being tested.


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