Hosts appear split despite nation’s inability to quickly solve water crisis
BY ERIC JOHNSTON
OSAKA – The Fukushima No. 1 power plant’s continued pollution of the Pacific is fueling growing domestic and international concern about radiation hazards, clouding plans by utilities and the government to quickly restart a dozen reactors.
But there is something of an east-west divide among regional governments as to the wisdom of restarting the reactors. On Wednesday, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to declare a national state of emergency over the water leaks.
“Under the recognition that this is a declared national emergency, the government should respond in a concerted effort, and with a sense of urgency,” Sato told Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi.
In Niigata Prefecture, home to Tepco’s giant seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex, plans to apply for restarting two of the reactors ran into problems even before the most recent water leak, when the governor signaled he was opposed.
In western Japan, the political rhetoric is different.
In Fukui Prefecture, which has 13 commercial reactors, the local townships hosting them, as well as Gov. Issei Nishikawa, are continuing to lobby hard to get them up and running again. Nishikawa has been especially critical of the way the NRA examined the prefecture’s plants.
“For no logical reason, the NRA has delayed plant safety inspections” on the new safety standards, Nishikawa said.
The staunchly pro-nuclear Fukui governor has met with senior Abe administration officials twice since June. He called on the government to create a separate body to monitor the operations of the NRA and to make recommendations for improving its operations.
But the questions of if, when and where reactors should be restarted is likely to rely not only on local politics, but also available personnel.
Earlier this month, the NRA took out a help-wanted ad in a utility industry newspaper, seeking 20 people with experience working in nuclear power to help judge whether reactors targeted for restarts meet its new safety standards, which took effect in July.
At present, about 80 people are employed in such work. The NRA wants the new employees to begin in October. Given the amount of work and the number of applications, doubts remain about whether even 100 additional inspectors would speed up the process.