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About 50% of local bodies near nuke plants want say over reactor restarts

In the background, from left, the No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 reactor buildings of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are seen, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 31, 2016. In front are tanks used to store contaminated water. (Mainichi)

Roughly 50 percent of local governments within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant -- excluding municipalities where the plant is located -- want to have a say in the restarting of nuclear reactors, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

Among 121 neighboring local bodies, 60 of the 119 that provided answers in the survey said that they wanted to have a say in whether nuclear reactors can be reactivated.

Since the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, the reactivation of nuclear reactors has been subject to consent from prefectures and municipalities hosting the facilities. However, taking into consideration the widespread damage and risks associated with the disaster in 2011, neighboring authorities have also been keen to get involved in the approval process.

A total of 155 local governments were targeted in the survey, which was conducted between September and November 2017 and addressed to local government heads and also to assemblies. The local authority where the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is located also took part.

Thirty-four of the 155 authorities (13 prefectural and 21 municipal) have a commercial nuclear power plant directly within their jurisdictions. The remaining 121 neighboring local bodies (eight prefectural and 113 municipal) are situated within 30 kilometers of a power plant.

Of the 155 local bodies approached, 153 local government heads -- excluding those of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture and Ikeda, Fukui Prefecture -- gave answers while 154 local assemblies, excluding that of Iitate, cooperated.

Local government heads were asked whether they are for or against reactor restarts at the local nuclear power plant, the extent of their local government's involvement, and the status of any safety agreements with electric power companies. Assemblies were asked whether or not they have adopted any written statements concerning the restarting of nuclear reactors, among other questions.

Regarding the right to approve reactivation of reactors at nuclear power plants and the right to conduct on-site investigations -- which have effectively already been given to mainly local governments where plants are located -- the local government heads were asked if these rights should be extended to neighboring bodies as well. In response, 56 heads stated that it was necessary to grant such rights, seven said that it is partly necessary, 24 said it was unnecessary, one head did not know, 60 gave other answers, and five did not reply.

Altogether, 60 of the 63 heads who said the granting of such rights was "necessary" or "partly necessary" belong to neighboring local governments. Of these 60 local bodies, 16 said that they are against restarting nuclear reactors.

Meanwhile, of the 24 heads who said the granting of these rights was "unnecessary," 10 belong to local governments where a nuclear power plant is located, including Fukui Prefecture -- revealing a difference in attitudes between the immediate and nearby local governments.

However, of the immediate local governments, the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture -- which was seriously affected by the 2011 disaster -- said that the rights need to be extended on the grounds that, "Once an accident happens, the impact spreads across a wide area."

The village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture -- where the Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant is based -- was among those that replied that it is "partly necessary" to extend the rights.

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