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Governors address Tokyo nuke debate

Kyodo

As Tokyo prepares for its Feb. 9 gubernatorial election, governors of prefectures with nuclear power plants are split over whether they believe the nation’s reliance on atomic energy should be a campaign issue.

Some welcome the debate while others argue that candidates and voters should pay more attention to other problems.

“It is very meaningful that the issue (of the future of nuclear power in Japan) is debated in Tokyo, a huge energy-consuming place,” Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato said last Wednesday, a day before the Tokyo campaign officially started.

“I expect people in Tokyo to make decisions through thinking about the situation in Fukushima,” said Sato, governor of the prefecture that hosts the devastated Fukushima No. 1 and where nearly 140,000 people are still living in temporary housing as evacuees from radioactive fallout.

There are no nuclear power plants in Tokyo, but the capital consumes almost 10 percent of all electricity in Japan.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who oversees the Hamaoka nuclear plant, recently said that “it is natural that candidates in Tokyo propose ending nuclear power generation to avoid a dangerous accident.”

Nuclear energy “can be discussed as long as people in Tokyo have interest in it,” Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa said last Thursday. “But if I were a Tokyo resident, I would be seeking a clear answer about how to address the issues of an aging society.”

Saga hosts the Genkai plant.

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai expects the Tokyo election, whatever its outcome, will have only a limited impact on future nuclear policy.

“There will be some impact if the governor of the big energy-consuming place calls for a nuclear-free Japan,” Murai said. “But nuclear power generation won’t be stopped immediately, as it is a national policy.”

Miyagi, one of the three hardest-hit prefectures in the March 2011 disasters, hosts the Onagawa nuclear plant.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to restart nuclear reactors if they comply with the government’s safety standards, and export Japanese nuclear technology to other countries.

“It can be one of the main issues — whether to end the use of nuclear power — but it is questionable to make it the only issue,” Ishikawa Gov. Masanori Tanimoto said Friday.

The governor of the prefecture with the Shika nuclear plant also said, “I want candidates to come up with prescriptions (for other sources of electricity) if nuclear reactors are scrapped.”