Assembly nixes Niigata nuclear referendum

Kyodo

The Niigata Prefectural Assembly in a Wednesday plenary session voted down a bill calling for a referendum on whether to back resuming operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which has been idled since the Fukushima meltdown crisis started in 2011.

Earlier, at the assembly’s special committee, the Liberal Democratic Party voted against the bill, saying the state must be responsible for decisions regarding the restart of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant.

The Democratic Party of Japan also opposed the bill, arguing an either-or choice would not sufficiently reflect the public’s will.

To date, similar bills have been submitted to assemblies in the city of Osaka, Tokyo and in Shizuoka Prefecture after the nuclear catastrophe started at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant. All have been rejected.

In Niigata, a civic group collected the signatures of 68,353 voters in the prefecture last year, exceeding the 40,000 necessary to request the institution of an ordinance for a referendum.

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida brought the bill to the assembly with a call to revise it.

The Social Democratic Party and other parties had proposed a revised bill stating that a referendum should be held before the governor makes a decision on restarting any or all of the plant’s seven reactors, instead of the initial bill calling for a referendum within 90 days of the bill becoming law. The revised bill was also vetoed by the assembly.