The former mayor of a village that had a pioneering role in Japan’s nuclear development expressed his opposition Sunday to the nation continuing to look to nuclear power as an energy source.
“It has been said that a local community can enjoy benefits by hosting a nuclear power plant, but it is just an illusion,” Tatsuya Murakami, who served as mayor of Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, for 16 years until his retirement last September, told a public gathering in Tokyo.
Around one-third of the village’s general account budget was from nuclear facilities located there while he was mayor, “but the ‘nuclear money’ has made our industrial structure disproportionately depend on nuclear-related businesses,” he said. “As a result, we have failed to cultivate other businesses.”
The village’s shipment of manufactured goods stands at only 30 billion yen, compared with that of the city of Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, with a population almost the same as Tokaimura’s, at 140 billion yen, according to Murakami.
“The nuclear operators are just like lords of the community, and people seek cozy ties with them. To criticize the lords is taboo,” Murakami said as he talked about the situation in the village where nation’s first research reactor achieved criticality in 1957.
Murakami has served as a co-representative of the Mayors for a Nuclear Free Japan, which comprises around 90 former and incumbent mayors supporting the nuclear phaseout policy. Incumbent mayors include those of major cities, such as Sapporo, Aomori and Nagoya.
Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, said in announcing the survey results, “We had compiled an evacuation plan before the accident, but it was useless.”
Six months after retiring, Murakami of Tokaimura gives lectures several times a month around the nation to encourage people to raise their voices against nuclear power.
“I had been thinking about how to reconstruct our village in the wake of the nation’s first criticality accident in 1999,” which killed two workers at a nuclear fuel processor and exposed hundreds of residents to radiation, he said. “We were thrust into notoriety — Tokaimura was contaminated with radiation and the villagers were not being chosen as marital partners.”
“I believe now that a local municipality should break away from the old mindset focusing only on economic development,” he said. “Rather, we need to create a sustainable society, taking good care of the environment as well as ourselves.”