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Not so simple a decision

6 local heads favor restart of N-reactors


Six out of 34 heads of prefectures and municipalities where nuclear power plants are located favor restarting suspended nuclear reactors if they meet government safety standards, according to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The survey, covering 13 governors and 21 heads of municipalities, was conducted this month after all the nation's nuclear reactors suspended their operations mainly due to regular checkups following the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Five local government leaders said they disapproved of restarting the idle nuclear reactors, while 23 refrained from stating their position on the issue.

Many of the undecided leaders said they would decide based on the position of the central government and local residents on the restart of the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, on which discussions have heated up.

The central government's safety standards were established in April to prepare for the restart of the Oi reactors. The plant is operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., and the restart of its reactors is considered essential in avoiding serious power shortages in the Kansai region this summer.

Among the six leaders in favor of restarting suspended reactors, the heads of Tomari village in Hokkaido and Kariwa village in Niigata Prefecture and the mayor of Mihama town in Fukui Prefecture said they "would approve [restarts] soon" after the reactors meet the safety standards.

The three municipalities are home to Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari nuclear power plant, TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant and Kansai Electric's Mihama nuclear power plant, respectively.

Hiroomi Makino, the head of Tomari village, said: "In the case of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, human errors have been reported in its operation. The Tomari nuclear power plant has established sufficient safety measures."

Kariwa village head Hiroo Shinada said, "It's desirable for the nuclear power plants to provide electricity under the precondition of securing safety."

Mayor Shinobu Tokioka of Oi town, where the disputed Oi nuclear power plant is located, was among the three mayors who said they "will consider [restarts] favorably."

"Our town has long supported the nation on nuclear policies and coexisted with the power plant," Tokioka said. However, Tokioka said, "Public consensus on the necessity of nuclear power is required" for the restart of nuclear reactors.

The other two were from Takahama town in Fukui Prefecture and Genkai town in Saga Prefecture. Kansai Electric's Takahama nuclear power plant and Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Genkai nuclear power plant are located in the two towns.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Tomioka town in Fukushima Prefecture and the head of Tokai village in Ibaraki Prefecture said they will reject the restart of nuclear reactors "unconditionally."

TEPCO's Fukushima No. 2 power plant is located in Tomioka and Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant is in Tokai.

Tatsuya Murakami, the head of Tokai village, has asked the central government to scrap the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant. "I don't think the hastily prepared safety standards will appease public criticism of nuclear power plants," Murakami said.

The mayors of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and Futaba town in Fukushima Prefecture and Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu said they will reject restarts "for now."

Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Onagawa nuclear power plant is located in Ishinomaki, the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is in Futaba and Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka nuclear power plant is in Shizuoka Prefecture.

"We'll decide after conducting our own inspections of the [Hamaoka plant's] measures against tsunami and resistance to earthquakes," Kawakatsu said.

Many of the 23 local government heads who did not clarify their stance on the issue said they want to monitor developments regarding the restart of the Oi nuclear power plant's reactors, especially the opinions of local residents.

"I want to carefully study the movements of the government and local residents regarding the restart of the Oi nuclear power plant," Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa said.

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