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Safety first

Central gov't under pressure to ensure safety of Oi nuclear reactors

"(mainichi Japan) April 04, 2012"




The Fukui Prefectural Government has been urging the central government to ensure the safety of two idled nuclear reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in the prefecture before reactivating them, and local government chiefs in the neighboring prefectures of Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka are trying to get involved in decision-making on whether to restart the operations at the atomic power facilities. Hence, the central government has come under increasing pressure from local governments not to make a hasty decision to reactivate the two nuclear reactors idled for regular inspections.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has repeatedly said, "The central government must show a provisional safety standard based on the findings from the Fukushima accident. That's the major precondition." He said in February, "The central government must first show the public its responsible opinions on the meaning of nuclear power and the need for the reactivation of nuclear reactors and make efforts to secure understanding."

On the fact that the central government has delayed its decision to call on the Fukui Prefectural Government to give the green light for the reactivation of the Oi reactors, a veteran prefectural assemblyman, a proponent of the reactivation of the reactors, said, "We were thinking that the reactors would be reactivated in late April, but our original schedule did not work out the way we had hoped. The impact on the local communities is immeasurable."

On the other hand, a prefectural assemblyman who opposes the reactivation of the reactors said, "The delay is attributable largely to opposition voiced in Shiga, Kyoto and Osaka prefectures (to the reactivation). But while findings from the Fukushima accident have not been confirmed, the government has hastily moved ahead with procedures to reactivate (the reactors) without presenting a provisional safety standard. So, it is a natural development."

On whether to reactivate nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture, local governments near the prefecture have also been demanding the right to take part in the decision-making process.

The "energy strategy council," jointly formed by the Osaka municipal and prefectural governments, decided on April 1 to urge the central government and Kansai Electric Power Co. to set eight conditions for restarting the idled reactors. One of the conditions is to secure the consent of local people and governments within a radius of 100 kilometers from the nuclear power station. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said on April 3, "We must widen the scope further to include more local municipalities (that need to be involved in the decision-making). Hashimoto then added, "The central government must either secure the understanding of local governments and residents in a wide region or seek public judgment through an election in a responsible way."

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada and Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada have said they would demand the right to get involved in deciding whether to reactivate the reactors. The two governors have been coordinating their plans to visit the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power station together. Gov. Yamada said, "We want to work together with Fukui Prefecture, which has accumulated knowledge (on nuclear reactors and nuclear issues). He wants to set up a forum in which officials from the Kyoto, Shiga and Fukui prefectural governments can exchange views.

In light of the fact that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three Cabinet ministers concerned held their first meeting to officially discuss the reactivation of the Oi nuclear reactors, Gov. Kada issued a statement on the evening of April 3, saying, "The investigations into the cause of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, the formulation of safety measures and the mechanism to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors are insufficient. Top priority should be placed on these issues. We want the central government to fully explain to us as 'disaster-stricken' local governments and residents that could sustain damage (from a nuclear accident)."

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