FUKUI – Kansai Electric Power Co. wants to fire up its Takahama nuclear plant as soon as possible, but it has cleared only one hurdle in securing a green light from regulators. The next could be difficult: obtaining the consent of local officials.
Areas within 30 km of the plant must have evacuation plans for all residents. Although the plant is located in Fukui Prefecture, the evacuation zone sweeps into Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, and they fear for a repeat of a crisis like the Fukushima meltdowns.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority declared last week that the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Takahama plant meet safety standards.
But Yutaka Nose, mayor of Takahama, called on the NRA to explain what that green light means. He suggested that it record a video for town residents to watch via a local cable television network.
Nose said he himself will only decide whether to approve the restarts after consulting residents.
Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa plans to decide in line with the recommendations of a panel of experts conducting an independent assessment at the prefectural government’s behest. He will also, he said, consider sentiment in the town and the prefectural assembly.
Along with the NRA’s safety certificate, Kansai Electric needs to win approval for the systems and facilities it would deploy in the event of an accident.
Nishikawa said he will take everything into account in deciding what to do.
It is unlikely that there will be much progress before April’s gubernatorial election.
If the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture is anything to go by, approval could be months away at least. Approval is still pending for a resumption of life at that plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, even though the NRA gave a thumbs-up in September.
The safety standards the NRA now holds reactors to were introduced after the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.
A total of 21 reactors at 14 power plants are currently slated to get NRA screening, and some of them are already undergoing inspections. For now, all reactors remain offline.
In the event of a serious accident, residents within 5 km would be evacuated immediately. For those further away in the 30-km zone there need only be evacuation plans in place.
About 70 residents of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, live within 5 km of the Takahama plant. The 30-km area includes 128,000 people in seven cities and towns in Kyoto, and 55,000 in four municipalities in Fukui.
Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada has not been drawn on whether he favors restarts. He has demanded “clear-cut accounts” from the central government, the NRA and Kansai Electric.
However, he seems satisfied with a draft safety agreement between his prefecture and the utility.
Taizo Mikazuki, governor of Shiga Prefecture, part of which also falls within the 30-km radius, maintains that he will not endorse the restart of the reactors unless the Takahama plant introduces an “effective” safety system.
Mikazuki was elected last July on a pledge of seeking to phase out nuclear power.
He has warned that in the event of an accident, the fallout won’t respect prefectural boundaries. He believes reactivating nuclear plants should be a matter for other prefectures, not just the one that hosts the plant.
But Nishikawa said the decision should be for Fukui Prefecture and the town of Takahama alone because they host the plant and will assume the risk.
Nishikawa recognizes that there is concern in the Kyoto and Shiga prefectural governments, and therefore he has called on the central government to explain why the reactors need to be restarted.