A citizens group seeking a local referendum on the use of nuclear power in Tokyo said it has collected enough signatures to file a petition calling for an ordinance to hold the vote.
On Feb. 6, Minna de Kimeyo Genpatsu Kokumin Tohyo said it has collected 216,063 signatures, more than the required 214,236 signatures needed for the ordinance.
The group, whose name translates as "Let Everyone Participate in a Referendum on Making Decisions About Nuclear Power," intends to collect more than 300,000 signatures by the Feb. 9 deadline.
Additional signatures are needed in case some of the signatures collected are found to be invalid, such as those from people who are not residents of Tokyo.
The group estimates that up to 30 percent could be ruled invalid.
The group embarked on signature-collecting campaigns in Tokyo and the city of Osaka late last year. It says local residents should make a clear stand on the issue of nuclear power generation through referendums.
The group already collected 55,428 valid signatures in Osaka, more than the 42,673 required, by the Jan. 9 deadline.
The group is required to collect signatures of at least one-50th of eligible voters in the jurisdiction of Tokyo and Osaka city over two months to file a petition for a referendum under the local autonomy law.
The group began the drive amid growing concerns over the safety of nuclear power generation following the March 11 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The Tokyo metropolitan government is a leading shareholder of TEPCO, and the Osaka city government holds a big stake in Kansai Electric Power Co., which also operates nuclear power plants.
The group intends to prod the heads of the two local governments to ask the utilities to reflect the results of the referendum in their business plans.
The signatures will be submitted to the electoral management committee of each municipality in Tokyo to examine if they are valid.
The group will also continue with the signature collection in Fuchu and Hachioji, two of the four municipalities, where the deadlines have been extended due to mayoral elections.
The deadline for Fuchu and Hachioji is March 23 and March 24, respectively.
The final tally of valid signatures is expected to be established in mid-April after the signatures are verified.
If the number of valid signatures exceeds the number required, a petition to call for an ordinance to hold a referendum will be submitted to Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.
Ishihara is required to put the proposed ordinance to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly for discussion, submitting his opinion on the proposal together, within 20 days after the petition is filed.
To hold a referendum, a majority of votes will be needed at the assembly.
If a referendum on the use of nuclear power is held, it will be a first in local governments other than those hosting or trying to attract nuclear power plants.
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