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North Korean missile test alarms Japanese communities with nuclear power plants

The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at Shimane Nuclear Power Station are seen in the city of Matsue in this photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on Nov. 29, 2021. (Mainichi/Kenji Konoha)

North Korea launch of a ballistic missile over the Japanese archipelago on Oct. 4 has stirred concerns in local communities hosting nuclear power plants.

    West Japan's Shimane is the only prefecture in the country that has a nuclear power plant in the prefectural capital. Takehiko Hobo is head of the administrative office of a citizens' group based in Matsue, the prefectural capital, which tackles nuclear power plant and energy-related issues in the prefecture. "Nuclear power plants have been the targets of Russian attacks amid the invasion of Ukraine, and it's not just another country's problem," he said. "Right now, can Japan protect its nuclear power plants?"

    Yasue Ashihara, a former member of the Matsue municipal assembly who heads a group of plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding the suspension of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Shimane Nuclear Power Station, said, "When thinking about residents' safety, nuclear power plants, which can become targets of attacks -- shouldn't be set up in the first place."

    Meanwhile, Kazuhisa Naruse, head of the nuclear power safety measures section of the Matsue Municipal Government, said, "No nuclear power plants are built to resist a missile's direct hit, so we'd like to ask the government to take diplomatic defense measures. Missiles are being launched frequently as of late."

    Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast has 15 nuclear reactors including those earmarked for decomissioning -- the highest number in Japan. Hirokazu Hayashi, head of the administrative office of a residents' forum on nuclear power plant issues in the prefecture, commented, "Even if nuclear power plants have facilities with anti-terrorism measures, they are not equipped for missile attacks and are defenseless." He added, "There are also cases where spent nuclear fuel is stored even if nuclear power plants are not in operation, and it would be dangerous if a missile missed its target and fell within the premises."

    Takanobu Fuchikami, mayor of the Fukui Prefecture city of Tsuruga who also serves as the head of Zengenkyo national council of municipalities with nuclear power plants, condemned North Korea over its missile test. "It is something absolutely unacceptable, and I am outraged," he said. He demanded that the national government "take every possible measure from the viewpoint of diplomacy and national defense to protect nuclear power plants from missile attacks and armed attacks."

    (Japanese original by Hajime Meno, Hayato Matsubara, Matsue Bureau; and Riki Iwama, Fukui Bureau)

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