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What will happen in Yamaguchi?

October 6, 2012


Gov't not to allow new nuclear plant in Yamaguchi: Edano



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government will not allow the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, in line with its policy of not endorsing the building of new reactors, industry minister Yukio Edano said Friday.

The construction of the nuclear complex by Chugoku Electric Power Co. in the town of Kaminoseki is "subject to the principle of not constructing new reactors," the minister of economy, trade and industry told a press conference.

Despite Edano's remarks, Chugoku Electric filed an application Friday afternoon with the Yamaguchi prefectural government to extend its license, effective for three years and due to expire midnight Saturday, to reclaim the planned construction site.

The utility's application appears to be aimed at advancing construction of the plant at a time when the government's new energy strategy has not been officially adopted.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided last month not to allow the construction of new reactors under a new energy policy that aims to end nuclear power generation in Japan in the 2030s. But the Noda Cabinet refrained from officially approving the strategy.

The prefectural government is set to examine the utility's application for around a month but is unlikely to approve extension of the license, sources close to the matter said.


Edano said he had not been informed of the request filed by Chugoku Electric.

In October 2008, Chugoku Electric secured the license from the Yamaguchi prefectural government to landfill the plant construction site in the town on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, beginning reclamation work in October 2009.

But due to opposition from residents of an island 4 kilometers from the planned nuclear plant site, there has been little progress on construction.

The work came to a halt after the Fukushima nuclear disaster erupted in March last year, following requests from the governments of Yamaguchi Prefecture and Kaminoseki.

Nuclear plants account for 8 percent Of Chugoku Electric's total power generation, the lowest level among Japan's 10 regional utilities excluding Okinawa Electric Power Co., which does not operate a nuclear power plant.

Chugoku Electric President Tomohide Karita has expressed readiness to build the new nuclear power plant, citing the need to supply power stably and tackle climate change.

In December 2009, the utility filed a request with the central government to build two nuclear reactors at the planned Kaminoseki complex, but the state is yet to grant permission.

Utilities hold on to nuclear reactor plans despite minister's remark



TOKYO, (Kyodo) -- Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano has made it clear the government will not allow construction of the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Station planned by Chubu Electric Power Co., underscoring its policy of prohibiting new nuclear power reactors, except those already being built.

But with the policy lacking any legal basis to stop construction, the power company does not appear to be giving up on its preparations. With a general election looming, the utility also appears to be hoping for the formation of a pro-nuclear government that could overturn the no-reactor policy.

After a Cabinet meeting Friday, Edano told reporters, "If any action is taken by Chubu Electric, I will consider a response that will account for it," a remark widely taken to mean he is determined to check any moves for pushing ahead with the construction of the Kaminoseki plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Under a new energy strategy worked out in September, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided to phase out nuclear power generation in the country in the 2030s and not to allow the construction of new reactors.

A total of 12 reactors are currently planned at new or existing nuclear power stations in Japan. Construction has not yet started at nine of them. They include two reactors at Kaminoseki, a new plant, and two additions at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s existing Tsuruga Power Station in Fukui Prefecture.

Meanwhile, permits were issued for the remaining three reactors in line with the law for regulations on nuclear reactors and materials, with construction of them having already started.

But work has been suspended since March last year when much of the nation's nuclear power infrastructure was halted after the Great East Japan Earthquake crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The government is accommodative of allowing the resumption of construction for the three facilities -- Electric Power Development Co.'s Ohma Nuclear Power Plant in Aomori Prefecture, the third reactor at Chubu Electric's Shimane Nuclear Power Station in Shimane Prefecture, and the first reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Higashidori Nuclear Power Station.

The prospects of work restarting appear dim at Higashidori, however, because Tokyo Electric is focusing its efforts on keeping its Fukushima Daiichi plant stable.

Despite the industry minister's remark of not allowing construction of Kaminoseki, power companies are reluctant to give up their plans. "We would like to move forward with an unflagging resolve," an official of Japan Atomic Power has said of the company's reactor plan.

Chubu Electric, meanwhile, requested an extension Friday of a reclamation permit at a site planned for the Kaminoseki plant. The utility issued a comment containing the nuanced suggestion that the government has not necessarily decided to stop the construction of the plant. "While the government is engaged in deliberations, (the request for the permit) is intended to keep the status quo for the time being," it said.

Against the backdrop of these utility officials' thinking is perhaps a lack of concrete measures by the government to terminate plans for the reactors altogether.

Issuing a permit for building a nuclear power plant and authorization of a construction schedule have been shifted to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, created in September as a unit of the Environment Ministry, in an overhaul of the government's setup for overseeing the nuclear power industry.

The authority has indicated that it will strictly assess the safety of reactors. Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said, "We stand on a position of withholding any judgment that may have policy implications," a remark suggesting there may be some room left for the government to approve construction of the nine reactors.

The government has also stopped short of solidifying its new energy strategy by issuing a Cabinet decision which would have made the strategy binding even after a government change.

Electric utilities are apparently hoping that the government would make a turnaround and approve reactor construction if the Liberal Democratic Party takes power. Many LDP lawmakers are known to be reluctant to accommodate a policy of eliminating nuclear power.

Host communities of the planned reactors, meanwhile, will likely face a financial pinch as they have been recipients of huge subsidies for the promotion of nuclear power.

The town of Kaminoseki, for instance, has written a budget of around 4.2 billion yen for fiscal 2012 that began April 1. Of that amount, roughly 1.3 billion yen is financed by nuclear subsidy payments.

In the face of imminent financial difficulty, a town official expressed hope for some other measures to be taken for the town's finances. "We have cooperated with the national program for 30 years, and we hope consideration be given to our stand."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura at a news conference Friday provided his take on Chubu Electric's request for an extension of the reclamation permit. "I took it to mean they need time to make coordination with various local stakeholders."




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