TAKAHAMA, FUKUI PREF. – In the wake of the disastrous nuclear accident in northeastern Japan nearly five years ago, the Fukui Prefecture town of Takahama has been seeking ways to reduce its heavy dependence on a nuclear power plant for its livelihood.
“It is true that we’ve depended on the nuclear industry,” said a local official responsible for community buildings in the municipality, home to Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear plant.
The town and the nuclear power station have “become inseparable” since the plant’s No. 1 reactor started operations in 1974, according to the official.
The plant has provided jobs for the community, with the much of the town’s economy geared towards providing services for those who work at the facility.
On Friday, the plant’s No. 3 reactor was brought back online after a hiatus of nearly four years, becoming the third reactor in the nation to restart operations under the country’s new safety standards compiled after the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Kansai Electric plans to reactivate the No. 4 reactor at the plant in late February.
In fiscal 2014, which ended in March last year, the town’s revenues related to the nuclear plant, including subsidies and fixed-asset tax income, totaled ¥5,072 million, accounting for 51 percent of its total general-account revenue.
However, the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident changed the town’s way of thinking.
“We’ve come to think seriously that the town must not depend solely on the nuclear industry,” the town official said. “We are now aiming to reshape the town into a community that does not rely on nuclear power.”
As part of its effort, the town is looking to its beaches with their beautiful landscapes and pristine waters.
In 1985, nearly 1.2 million people visited the town’s eight swimming beaches.
The number of visitors has since decreased as many more outlets where people can spend their leisure time have become available. Still, some 204,100 people, mainly from the western Kansai region, visited the area for its beaches last year.
One tourist activity the town is promoting is a sea kayak tour of oddly shaped rocks.
Takahama is also trying to obtain the Blue Flag international environmental certification for its Wakasawada beach.
There are more than 4,000 Blue Flag beaches and marinas around the world, including beaches in Amalfi Italy and Nice France. The certification program is administered by the Foundation for Environmental Education, a Copenhagen-based nonprofit organization.
To be certified, a beach or marina must meet 33 criteria, including water quality and safety. No site in Asia has so far obtained the Blue Flag.
The city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture has also filed for the Blue Flag certification.
Decisions on whether to certify the Wakasawada and Yuigahama beaches are expected to be made later this year.
But a 62-year-old man who runs an inn near the Wakasawada beach said, “The number of visitors would not increase suddenly even if the beach receives the Blue Flag.”
A Takahama municipal government official also said, “What we will do after obtaining the certification is important.”