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Kan on Hamaoka

May 5, 2012


Gov't never issued restart guarantee for Hamaoka nuke plant: Kan




The Japanese government never issued any conditional guarantees that the Hamaoka nuclear plant would be given permission to restart, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Mainichi recently in an exclusive interview.

On May 6 last year, then Prime Minister Kan demanded that operations at the Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture -- on the Pacific coast and close to a major undersea fault line -- be halted. However, plant operator Chubu Electric Power Co. said it had received a guarantee from then Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda for permission to restart the reactors after the firm had implemented a raft of new safety measures.

"That was just something they (Chubu Electric) wished for," Kan told the Mainichi, denying any such guarantee had been made.

Chubu Electric decided on May 9, 2011, to shut down the Hamaoka plant's reactors, three days after the government demand. At a news conference that day, Chubu Electric President Akihisa Mizuno revealed that he'd talked with Kaieda on the phone, and that the minister had "promised to allow the reactors' restart" if the completion of new tsunami safety measures was confirmed. Mizuno also announced items that confirmation would be based on.

"I won't deny that the utility presented something they were hoping for," Kan told the Mainichi in the interview. "But the Hamaoka plant is on a different level from the problem of Japan's energy policy as whole. That issue goes beyond whether a promise can be made based on a confirmation list or not. ... The Fukushima nuclear disaster proved that the risks involved cannot be borne by just one company.

"This is a policy issue that the entire nation must consider," Kan added.

On the Hamaoka shutdown demand, Kan pointed out that both the Tomei Expressway and the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line pass within 20 kilometers of the plant -- the same radius around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station now barred to human habitation.

"If a Fukushima-like disaster happened at Hamaoka, Japan's aorta would wind up inside the exclusion zone. I think the impact would be greater than that of the Fukushima crisis," Kan said, emphasizing the special characteristics of the Hamaoka area.

Regarding the possible restart of reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, Kan stated: "The opinions from the power supply side of the debate are very strong. But is it really true that we don't have enough electricity? I think that we can get through if each individual cuts back on consumption at peak times, among other measures."

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