SURVEY: Half of Kansai residents oppose restarting Oi reactors

April 24, 2012

Opponents outnumbered proponents in Fukui Prefecture and across the Kansai region over the proposed restarts of two nuclear reactors at the Oi nuclear plant, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Respondents also overwhelmingly favored the support of a larger number of local governments needed to be obtained for the restarts, and expressed a distrust of governmental and a utility's claims of a possible power shortage during peak demand in summer.

The central government and Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), the Osaka-based operator of the Oi plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, appear determined to have the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors back online at an early date before summer.

The two Oi reactors have been shut down for regular maintenance checks.

The Asahi Shimbun on April 21-22 conducted telephone surveys in Fukui Prefecture and across the six prefectures of the Kinki (Kansai) region. KEPCO's service area roughly coincides with the Kinki region.

The newspaper received valid responses from 863 people in Fukui Prefecture, or 66 percent of those contacted, and 2,675 people across the Kinki region (Kyoto, Osaka, Shiga, Hyogo, Nara and Wakayama prefectures), or 64 percent of those contacted.

Thirty-six percent of Fukui residents said they approved restarts of the Oi reactors, while 43 percent said they were opposed. Twenty-nine percent approved and 52 percent disapproved of the restarts across the Kinki region.

While opponents outnumbered proponents in Fukui Prefecture as a whole, 51 percent of respondents in the southern part of the prefecture, where Oi is located, said they supported restarts, outstripping the 34 percent who said they were opposed.

Opposition to the restarts was stronger among women than among men in Fukui Prefecture: 49 percent of the female population of the prefecture said they were opposed, more than double the 23 percent who said they approved restarts.

The opponents were asked to choose from four options for their reason. The largest segments of the opponents--67 percent in Fukui Prefecture and 61 percent across the Kinki region--said they opposed restarts because they are "not safe." That was followed by "because the understanding of local and neighboring communities has not been obtained" (24 percent in Fukui and 23 percent across Kinki), "because there is enough of a power supply without the nuclear reactors" (6 percent in Fukui and 10 percent across Kinki) and "because (nuclear power generation) is costly in the long term" (2 percent in Fukui and 4 percent across Kinki).

By prefecture in the Kinki region, opponents accounted for 58 percent of the respondents in Shiga Prefecture, 56 percent in Kyoto Prefecture and 53 percent in Osaka Prefecture.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in Fukui Prefecture said they "do not trust" the central government's safety standards, on which they are relying for the restarts of the nuclear reactors.

More than 80 percent of the respondents, both in Fukui Prefecture and across the Kinki region, said they were concerned either "very much" or "to a certain extent" about a major nuclear accident.

Proponents of restarts of the Oi reactors were also asked why they supported them.

A leading 57 percent of those in Fukui Prefecture and 35 percent of those across the Kinki region chose the option: "because they are necessary in the light of the economy and employment." A leading 54 percent of the proponents across the Kinki region and 35 percent of those in Fukui Prefecture cited a "stable power supply" as the reason.

Only 4 percent of the proponents in Fukui Prefecture and 3 percent of those in the Kinki region said they approved the restarts "because they are safe."

Fifty-seven percent of all respondents in the Kinki region said they "do not trust" the government and KEPCO's reasoning that the power supply may fall short of demand this summer if no nuclear reactors are restarted.

A nuclear reactor in Tomari, Hokkaido Prefecture, is now the only one of Japan's 50 reactors currently operating. It is scheduled to be shut down for regular inspections on May 5.

Seventy-seven percent of those polled in the Kinki region said they would accept having to conserve on power usage or experience temporary rolling blackouts if no nuclear power reactors were to be restarted this summer and a major power shortage was to affect KEPCO's service area.

Seventy-seven percent of those who "trust" the government and KEPCO's argument about possible power shortages said they were ready to accept such inconveniences.

The central government is seeking to enlist the approval of the Fukui prefectural and Oi town governments to restart the two Oi reactors. However, the latest poll has demonstrated many believe that the approval of a broader array of local governments should be obtained.

Those polled in Fukui Prefecture were asked to choose from four options on the range of local governments whose approval should be sought. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said that local governments outside Fukui Prefecture should be included, whereas 22 percent chose "all local governments in Fukui Prefecture." Eleven percent said "all local governments in the southern part of Fukui Prefecture," where Oi is located, should be included, while only 4 percent said approval by the Fukui prefectural and Oi town governments was sufficient.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents in Shiga Prefecture and 87 percent in Kyoto Prefecture said the restarts should be conditional on approval by the governments of Shiga and Kyoto prefectures. Seventy-four percent of all restart proponents across the Kinki region (29 percent of all respondents in Kinki) said Shiga and Kyoto prefectures' approval was necessary.

Seventy-two percent of all respondents in the Kinki region said the restarts should be conditional on approval by the governments of all prefectures within a 100-kilometer radius of the Oi plant, including Osaka and Hyogo.

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Seishu Makino, left, senior vice industry minister, meets Yukiko Kada, right, governor of Shiga Prefecture, on April 23 to explain about the need to restart two reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in neighboring Fukui Prefecture. (Shinnosuke Ito)

Seishu Makino, left, senior vice industry minister, meets Yukiko Kada, right, governor of Shiga Prefecture, on April 23 to explain about the need to restart two reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in neighboring Fukui Prefecture. (Shinnosuke Ito)

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  • Seishu Makino, left, senior vice industry minister, meets Yukiko Kada, right, governor of Shiga Prefecture, on April 23 to explain about the need to restart two reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in neighboring Fukui Prefecture. (Shinnosuke Ito)

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