Hakodate sues to halt reactor project in Aomori

AFP-JIJI

The city of Hakodate, Hokkaido, is seeking a court injunction to prevent a nuclear plant from being built as suspicions continue to run deep about the central government’s ability to safely regulate atomic power three years after the Fukushima disaster began.

Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo appeared at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday afternoon to demand an indefinite freeze on construction of the Oma nuclear plant, which is being built across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.

Even as all Japan’s viable reactors remain shut down amid safety concerns, construction of the Oma plant resumed in October 2012.

Kudo has said Oma’s operator, J-Power — a formerly government-owned electricity wholesaler — and Japan as a whole have failed to learn the lessons from Fukushima and are not doing enough to ensure that the communities that will host the power station will be safe.

“After the Fukushima nuclear accident, the government expanded the zone expected to be severely affected in the case of a nuclear accident from 8 km to 10 km to 30 km around the site,” Kudo said on the city’s website. “But construction (at Oma) resumed without any explanation to, or consent from, the city of Hakodate or the southern Hokkaido region.”

As the first court session got under way, the defendants — the central government and plant operator — argued that the law forbade the city from suing in the first place, NHK reported.

Hakodate, on the southern coast of Hokkaido, sits within 30 km of the Oma site even though it is across the Tsugaru Strait. Oma sits on the northern tip of Honshu.

Kudo said the risk from Oma will rise because the operator plans to progressively increase its use of MOX — a mixed blend of uranium and plutonium oxides made from weapons-grade plutonium — until it is the sole fuel source.

Despite strong government support and pressure from business for reactor restarts, the public remains wary, refusing to believe assurances that safety standards have been raised in an industry that was exposed by the Fukushima disaster as having been too cozy with its regulator.

At the site of the man-made disaster, workers are three years into the multi-decade task of decommissioning the 40-year-old reactors that were damaged when huge tsunami knocked out their misplaced cooling systems.

Tens of thousands of people are still subsisting in temporary housing after being forced to flee their homes in the large area around the plant that was heavily contaminated by radiation. Experts warn that some settlements may have to be abandoned forever.