Futaba assembly passes no-confidence bid against mayor for skipping talks on nuclear waste storage

JIJI / Kyodo

The town assembly of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, adopted a no-confidence motion Thursday against Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa amid the turmoil over the construction of temporary storage facilities for radioactive waste.

The eight-member assembly unanimously passed the motion, criticizing Idogawa’s absence from a meeting last month between Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and leaders of municipalities near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Those at the meeting accepted a government on-site survey for the construction of temporary storage facilities for radioactive waste from the plant, which last year suffered three reactor core meltdowns. But Idogawa did not attend the meeting to protest the government plan.

The Futaba assembly members said that dealing with the radioactive waste is something they cannot ignore, regardless of their positions, but noted the mayor had acted on his own without consulting them.

The turmoil may delay the on-site survey, which was to be conducted in early January at the earliest.

Authorities in Futaba, which, together with the town of Okuma, hosts the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant, have transferred their office to Kazo, Saitama Prefecture.

The town of Futaba and Okuma have relocated their municipal offices, presumably on a temporary basis, to Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where the assemblies met Thursday.

The no-confidence motion means the mayor must either dissolve the town assembly or leave office within 10 days.

If the assembly is dissolved, an election will be held within 40 days under the Public Offices Election Law. If newly elected assembly members pass a no-confidence motion again, Idogawa will automatically lose his post.

Following passage of the motion, Idogawa told reporters, “I have worked hard to relay the requests of the townspeople to the central and prefectural governments.”

Idogawa signaled he may dissolve the assembly, saying, “Those who criticize me are also responsible.” He indicated a decision will be made, possibly early next week, after consulting with local government staff.

Hisato Iwamoto, the town assembly member who submitted the motion, urged Idogawa to step down.

“The issue (of temporary storage facilities) concerns the whole prefecture, not just Futaba,” Iwamoto said. “I hope the mayor will take the unanimous vote seriously,” he added.

The town has actually twice voted down, in June and September, a no-confidence motion submitted against Idogawa regarding the relocation of the Futaba town office to Fukushima Prefecture, and has been having problems with him.

Idogawa is in his second term, after being elected mayor in November 2005. The entire town of Futaba is within the designated no-go zone, with some 7,000 people having been forced to evacuate.

The central government has been urging three towns near the nuclear plant — Futaba, Okuma and Naraha — to accept the establishment of the temporary storage facilities, but Idogawa remains strongly opposed to the plan.