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Mayor of city near Tokai No. 2 nuke plant to oppose reactor reactivation

Naka Mayor Toru Umino (Mainichi/Masanori Makita)

NAKA, Ibaraki -- The mayor of this city has revealed that he will oppose the planned reactivation of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power station in Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

Toru Umino is the first mayor expressing such a view among the heads of six local municipalities that have sealed a safety agreement with plant operator Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC).

His remark in the Oct. 22 interview is significant because the six municipalities including Naka surrounding the nuclear plant have effective right to give consent on the restart of the plant. That right is included in a new safety agreement they signed with JAPC in March about the facility in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

As a reason for his stance, Umino cited the difficulty in formulating a wide-area evacuation plan that local municipalities are required to prepare for a severe accident at the nuclear complex.

"There's no way we can devise a perfect plan. There would be a terrible traffic jam with cars trying to go through highway tollgates. Bus companies would not send their drivers (to evacuate residents)," said Umino. "It would be safest to keep the reactor offline considering the safety of local residents."

Regarding the local governments' right of consent, Umino said, "In my understanding, the reactor cannot be put back online if even one local municipality opposed it, but the JAPC considers it differently." The mayor also disclosed that his city plans to conduct a large-scale opinion survey on local residents about whether they agree with the resumption of the reactor's operation.

The new safety agreement between the JAPC and the six municipalities stipulates that prior consultation will be held among them before restarting the reactor. However, the pact does not specify a scenario where the opinions of the six local governments are divided over reactivation. The municipalities include the cities of Naka and Mito as well as the village of Tokai.

The central government's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) certified in September that the Tokai No. 2 plant has met the new safety standards introduced in the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear disaster. The NRA also authorized the construction plan for the facility on Oct. 18. In addition, the authority is expected to give the green light to an extension of the operational life of the aging reactor beyond the 40-year rule by Nov. 27, the deadline for the procedure.

(Japanese original by Keisuke Ota and Sakae Kato, Mito Bureau)

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