Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto announced eight conditions for giving his approval for a restart of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, despite the government’s insistence that he has no formal part in the decision.
Hashimoto, a divisive figure who has used single-issue campaigns to build support in Osaka in the past, agreed to the conditions with his protege, Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, on April 10.
At the April 10 meeting of Osaka prefectural and municipal government officials, a decision was also made on a proposal to be submitted to the June shareholders meeting of Kansai Electric. The Osaka municipal government is the utility’s leading shareholder, and the proposal calls for including a move away from dependence on nuclear power in Kansai Electric's articles of incorporation.
The Osaka mayor appears to be preparing to use the confrontation over the plant as a springboard for his rapidly growing political movement.
In an April 10 news conference, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the consent of local governments was not legally required to resume operations at Oi, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura indicated that the central government would not take into consideration the Osaka politician’s eight conditions.
But Hashimoto appears to see the standoff in political terms, as a way of drawing a clear line between his Osaka Ishin no Kai party and the Democratic Party of Japan ahead of the next Lower House election, which must be held by next summer.
He described the eight conditions as "a political message" that would be presented to voters before that election to help them decide who to vote for.
Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai regional party has opened a political school to train prospective candidates for the Lower House poll.
One of Hashimoto and Matsui’s conditions calls for the signing of a safety agreement between Kansai Electric and all local governments within a 100-kilometer radius of the Oi plant.
Currently, such agreements only cover the utility and the local governments that actually host the plant. The 100-kilometer radius would cover part of Osaka prefecture and city and would, in effect, give the governor and mayor veto power over the resumption of operations.
Parts of Shiga, Kyoto, Hyogo, Gifu, Nara and Mie prefectures are also within a 100-km radius of the Oi plant.
Other conditions include establishing an independent nuclear regulatory agency, totally revising safety standards for nuclear plants and implementing stress tests using those new standards.
Matsui said the Osaka prefectural government would establish its own safety committee of experts to check any safety agreement that is entered into between his government and Kansai Electric.
Hashimoto indicated that he intended to continue with his opposition to the efforts of the Noda administration to push forward the resumption of operations at Oi.
"If approval is given for the resumption of operations, there would be no change in the electricity supply structure that has been in place until now," Hashimoto said.
Yukiko Kada, the governor of Shiga Prefecture, which borders Fukui Prefecture, said she favored the eight conditions in the mid- to long-term.
However, because Osaka city only has about a 9-percent stake in Kansai Electric, it is unclear if it will be able to accumulate the consent of two-thirds of shares with voting rights needed to revise the articles.
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