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Niigata governor-elect calls for Fukushima nuclear crisis investigation

Candidate Ryuichi Yoneyama celebrates his win in the gubernatorial election in Niigata Prefecture, on Oct. 16, 2016, in Niigata City, Japan. (Mainichi)

NIIGATA -- Governor-elect Ryuichi Yoneyama has called for getting to the bottom of the Fukushima nuclear crisis before debating the pros and cons of restarting the local atomic power station.

Yoneyama, 49, told reporters on the morning of Oct. 17, "We can't approve a restart as long as the lives and livelihoods of prefectural residents can't be protected."

During his campaigning, Yoneyama had said discussions on the issue "can't be started without clarifying the cause of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant."

At the same time, he said he is prepared to have dialogue with the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) instead of confronting these entities. TEPCO is the operator of both the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture and the tsunami-hit Fukushima plant.

Yoneyama said he is prepared to cooperate with an investigation being conducted by a panel comprised of the prefectural government and TEPCO into an incident in which the utility had concealed that meltdowns occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex.

"We'd like to get to the bottom of the case by not just confronting but cooperating with TEPCO," he told reporters.

The governor-elect stopped short of ruling out the possibility that the power plant will be restarted if necessary conditions are met.

"I don't think we should rule out the possibility. We can't have discussions with each other unless there is room for compromise with each other," he said.

Yoneyama successfully ran in the Oct. 16 Niigata gubernatorial election with the backing of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party. However, the Liberal Democratic Party, the ruling party in the National Diet, has a majority in the prefectural assembly.

"We've agreed to place priority on dialogue over confrontation, and on bringing benefits to prefectural residents," he said.

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