Directors of a publicity association in Fukushima Prefecture that promotes nuclear energy and publicizes its safety decided to disband on Feb. 16, feeling that they wouldn't be taken seriously in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
"With many people forced to evacuate due to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., we decided that we would be unable to obtain support for activities that publicize safety," said Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe, who heads the association.
The association had been established in 1981 through contributions of 20 million yen ($254,000) from the Fukushima prefectural government and 11 municipal governments to handle public relations for nuclear energy.
The association had its office within the Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center of Fukushima in Okuma, about five kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. However, after the accident, the area was designated a no-entry zone and the association had suspended operations.
At the Feb. 16 meeting, Watanabe proposed discussions as soon as possible on whether the association should continue to exist.
An official with the prefectural government said that under current conditions, considering the status of the plant, activities could not be conducted to carry out the objectives of the association, so the decision was made to disband.
After the disbanding is formally registered, the initial monetary contributions will be returned to the local governments.
In the future, the Fukushima prefectural government will directly handle publicity connected to the response to the nuclear accident.
The association had operated on funds from member local governments. Its budget for fiscal 2010 was about 100 million yen. Among its major activities was publication of the magazine "Atom Fukushima" as well as lectures.
Events were also held every year on Oct. 26, which was designated "Nuclear Energy Day."
While local governments have directly carried out publicity about nuclear energy and safety through funds allocated from the central government, a number of prefectures, such as Niigata, Fukui, Ishikawa and Ehime, have set up organizations like the one in Fukushima to handle the work.
According to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, 15 prefectures received 1.05 billion yen from the central government in fiscal 2010 for such publicity work. For fiscal 2012, 1.47 billion yen has been requested by prefectural governments.
After the Fukushima nuclear accident, some prefectures that host nuclear plants have begun considering spreading the range of their publicity work from the areas around the nuclear plant to the entire prefecture. The increase in the budget request is apparently a reflection of such changes.
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