Even though it’s around 430 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a village in Aomori Prefecture is still enduring the repercussions of the meltdowns at the facility almost a decade ago.
For the past 10 years, Higashidori has been facing an economic crisis because Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. has suspended construction of a nuclear plant, and another nuclear power plant operated by Tohoku Electric Power Co. was shut down.
In the budget for fiscal 2017, Higashidori was projected to be short by around ¥100 million, causing the village to turn to the so-called nuclear village — pro-nuclear groups in government, industry and academia.
Before the nuclear disaster, Higashidori had been compiling an annual budget of about ¥10 billion. But the figure shrunk to the region of ¥6 billion to ¥8 billion from fiscal 2012, as it no longer was able to issue bonds relying on future revenue from the Higashidori nuclear plant that would be used for repayment.
Despite the budget cut, the fiscal hardships continued. In order to help finance the village, in fiscal 2018 and 2019, Tokyo Electric and Tohoku Electric each donated ¥400 million via the furusato nо̄zei (hometown tax donation) system for businesses.
From fiscal 2019 to 2021, Higashidori is expected to receive a total of ¥1 billion from the central government in subsidies allocated to regions with power plants.
Tokyo Electric started construction of Higashidori nuclear power plant in January 2011, aiming to start its operation in March 2017, only for work to be suspended two months later due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The business environment surrounding Tohoku Electric has also changed. Since the liberalization of the retail power market in 2016, Tokyo Electric, which split the construction cost for the Higashidori nuclear plant with Tohoku Electric, has now become Tohoku Electric’s competitor.
With uncertain prospects facing the nuclear plants and accumulating deficits damaging the economy, Higashidori is going through a dark, cold winter.
The village is like the local kandachime horse breed, persevering through winds and snow under the winter sky, awaiting the advent of spring.
Read more at Far north of Fukushima, a village that bet big on nuclear feels the fallout