Fukushima evacuees, citizens groups vexed by Oi restart decision

June 17, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Among those shaking their heads at the June 16 decision by the central government to resume operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture are evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture as well as citizens groups urging energy conservation.

In the wake of last year's accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, residents of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture were forced to evacuate because of the radiation fallout. With no indication of when they can return to their homes, many evacuees have doubts about restarting two reactors at the Oi plant.

"While local communities may benefit if nuclear plants are operating, I do not think operations should be resumed," said Mariko Ito, 63, who evacuated from Okuma, which co-hosts the crippled plant along with Futaba.

Aware that communities such as Okuma have been helped by the economic benefits of hosting nuclear plants, she said she could understand the feeling of local governments wanting operations to resume because they depend on the plants for their livelihoods.

However, having been forced to evacuate, Ito said, "There are no safety guarantees for nuclear plants. If they are really concerned about their livelihoods, moves should be made toward eliminating all nuclear plants."

Ito's husband, who used to work for Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, said about the Oi resumption, "There is the possibility of a recurrence of what happened here. There should never be another case of an 'unexpected' accident."

Mie Shimura of Futaba now lives in temporary housing in Fukushima city after having moved several times after the nuclear accident. She said the hardest thing to deal with was not knowing how long she would have to evacuate.

"I may not be able to return to Futaba while I am still living," she said. "I wonder if it is all right to resume operations. I don't want anyone else to go through what I have."

Among those who have tried to conserve electricity as a means of moving away from nuclear energy, anger and disappointment were the prime emotions triggered by the decision to restart two reactors at the Oi plant.

"The government wasted an excellent opportunity," said Teisuke Suzuki, who operates a "kamaboko" (fish paste) company in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

He said if the government had decided not to resume operations that would have led to greater investment in energy conservation and technological development, and a reduction in electricity usage. It might have even triggered new business opportunities, he said.

Suzuki's company reduced electricity usage last summer by 25 percent and is seeking a similar level this year.

"While there are risks from not operating the plants, I feel the risks of an accident are much greater," Suzuki said.

Another group has been urging consumers to switch to more energy-efficient fluorescent lighting as well as asking businesses to review their lighting measures.

"The government should have called for greater electricity conservation measures rather than resume operations so I am disappointed," said Akiko Yoshida, a member of the group. "But I do not think the trend toward energy conservation will change."

Other groups have been pushing petition drives for local referendums on nuclear energy.

Tomoko Matsumoto, 48, of Akishima in western Tokyo, joined such a group because she regretted not showing a greater interest in electricity usage and the communities that host nuclear plants before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident.

"There is a huge gap between public opinion in which more people are opposed to resumption of operations and the decision made by the government," she said. "I did not want just a few people to make such an important decision."

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Participants at this year's Candle Night event at Tokyo's Zojoji temple hold candles after lights were turned off on Tokyo Tower on June 16. The event urging a power-saving lifestyle coincided with the government's decision to restart reactors at Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. (Yusaku Kanagawa)

Participants at this year's Candle Night event at Tokyo's Zojoji temple hold candles after lights were turned off on Tokyo Tower on June 16. The event urging a power-saving lifestyle coincided with the government's decision to restart reactors at Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. (Yusaku Kanagawa)

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  • Participants at this year's Candle Night event at Tokyo's Zojoji temple hold candles after lights were turned off on Tokyo Tower on June 16. The event urging a power-saving lifestyle coincided with the government's decision to restart reactors at Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. (Yusaku Kanagawa)

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