Public opposition dooms nuclear plant

Tohoku Electric can't get the land, gives up on project 30 years in making

Kyodo

Tohoku Electric Power Co. formally announced Wednesday it will abandon plans to build a nuclear plant in Maki, Niigata Prefecture, marking the first scrapping of a project included in the government’s power development plan.

The decision came in an extraordinary board meeting at its headquarters in Sendai.

The utility took the action following a Dec. 18 Supreme Court ruling against the project’s supporters, who had attempted to gain control of land earmarked for the plant from a local citizens’ group opposed to the project.

After the top court’s ruling, Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama said he believes construction is no longer possible and called on the utility to clarify the future of the project by the end of the year.

Following the board’s official approval Wednesday, Tohoku Power President Keiichi Makuta paid a visit to Hirayama and informed him of the utility’s decision.

Makuta later said that such a situation would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

“This is really a gut-wrenching decision,” he said.

Hirayama, for his part, noted that the 30 years since the government first gave the green light to the project were mired in debate over whether to approve or oppose the plan.

“But I asked (Tohoku Power) to scrap the plan after reflecting that it cannot secure the land,” he said, adding he hopes the decision will benefit the town’s administration.

The government had been planning to have the Maki nuclear plant on line in fiscal 2012. But the project stalled after about 60 percent of local residents voted against it in a plebiscite in 1996 and the town’s mayor sold the land intended for the plant to the citizens’ group in 1999.