Unhappiness about Japan's nuclear plant restart policy

Local governments in and near Fukui Prefecture, which hosts the Oi nuclear power plant, are critical of the central government's inconsistency over procedures to restart operations of the plant's Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, located in the town of Oi in the prefecture.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda instructed relevant Cabinet ministers to draw up new safety criteria for restarting idled reactors.

Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka maintained a cautious stance, just saying, "I'm not in a position to comment."

But Oi Town Assembly Chairman Kinya Shintani criticized the central government for its inconsistency.

"The government changes its views in the morning and in the evening, and different people say different things. I want them to unify their views," Shintani said.

As prerequisites for deciding on restarting the reactors, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has called on the central government to set tentative safety criteria based on lessons from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture and demand that Cabinet members make efforts to convince the public of the necessity to restart the reactors.

"Even if Fukui Prefecture approves the restart, the central government may not allow the reactors' restart, citing opposition from surrounding local governments," Toshiyuki Tanaka, chairman of the Fukui prefectural assembly, said.

Tanaka expressed his strong frustration, saying, "As long as the central government deals with this matter in such a way, we cannot make any decision on that."

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said at a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting Monday that the government would seek understanding from the governors of Shiga and Kyoto prefectures. Northern areas of the two prefectures are close to the Oi plant. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada welcomed Edano's comment the same day.

But Yamada said Tuesday he could no longer understand the government's response.

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada also said in a statement issued Tuesday: "I'd like to ask the central government about what it meant by local governments' 'understanding.' We won't be convinced unless the government provides us satisfactory explanations, without leaning too much toward restarting the reactors, by carefully examining the expected power supply-demand balance."

The Shiga prefectural assembly approved a letter of opinion in March demanding that the central government not approve restarting the Oi reactors until the cause of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is clarified and nuclear power plants' safety is ensured.

Kiyoji Nishikawa, mayor of Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, called on the central government to seek consent from neighboring local governments before restarting the operations of the Oi plant.

As a key to its disaster-management plans, the central government has decided to designate the area within a 30-kilometer radius of each nuclear power plant as an urgent protective action planning zone. The northwestern part of Takashima is within that zone for the Oi plant.

"Takashima also should be considered one of the local governments concerned. The central government should obtain consent from all neighboring local governments," Nishikawa said.

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