Shiga governor angry at being frozen out of Oi restart decision

March 17, 2012

The governor of Shiga Prefecture has expressed outrage at Tokyo's stance that it does not need to consult her when it decides whether to restart reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in neighboring Fukui Prefecture.

Yukiko Kada said March 16 the plant posed an imminent threat to Shiga and demanded the central government brief and seek the consent of her prefectural administration.

“Officials in Tokyo cannot grasp our prefecture’s proximity to and the danger (posed by the Oi plant),” she said. “As the officials responsible for protecting the water source for the Kansai region (Lake Biwako), the central government needs to explain to us and gain our consent to the restart of reactors.”

Her remarks came after Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference earlier in the day that Shiga Prefecture is not one of local governments that Tokyo will brief and seek endorsement from before the restart of the reactors.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is keen to restart the plant, which is operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., to ensure a stable power supply in the Kansai region this summer.

About half of the region's electricity output was generated by nuclear power before the Fukushima nuclear accident, higher than any other regions.

If the go-ahead is given, the Oi reactors will be the first to come back online since the Fukushima nuclear disaster that unfolded a year ago.

But some local governments fear the Noda administration is about to recklessly embark on restarting reactors before the full implementation of new safety guidelines for nuclear facilities that take into account lessons learned from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Kada said Shiga Prefecture will work with Kyoto Prefecture, part of which is located within a 30-kilometer radius of the Oi plant, to press for central government briefings over the restart from Noda, Fujimura and other ministers relevant to the issue.

She also pointed out that parts of northern Shiga Prefecture lie within 30 km of the Oi plant and could become part of the Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) around the facility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recommended in 2007 that a 30-km UPZ be created around all nuclear power plants in case of an accident.

Tokyo is moving to expand the planned UPZ around plants to a 30-km radius from the current 10-km radius.

"How does the central government view the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which scattered radioactive materials to areas even 50 km away from the plant?" Kada said.

It is about 20 km from the plant to the nearest part of Shiga Prefecture. Approximately 1,000 people in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, live within the 30-kilometer radius. Lake Biwako, Japan’s largest lake, is also in Shiga Prefecture.

Fujimura told journalists that the restart of the reactors and the extension of the UPZ were two separate issues.

"From the perspective of disaster prevention, we may contact local governments (in prefectures other than those that host nuclear plants), but not over the restart of reactors," he said.

Senior Noda administration officials said the government plans only to brief and seek the consent of local governments in Fukui Prefecture, which, with 14 reactors, has the largest concentration of nuclear facilities in Japan.

Makoto Yagi, president of Kansai Electric, said on March 16 that the local government of Oi, home to the Oi plant, and Fukui Prefecture are the only local administrations whose consent is needed to put the reactors back to operation.

A senior official at the industry ministry said: "It would not be realistic to try to gain support for the restart by including local governments within a 30-km radius."

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, left, and Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, left, and Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

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  • Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, left, and Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

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