OSAKA – Political decisions over the fate of Fukui’s aging reactors have long been in the hands of powerful pro-nuclear Diet members who represent the prefecture.
The Dec. 14 poll is not expected to change that, although it will be the first in which only two Fukui Lower House members are up for re-election. The loss of one seat stems from electoral district reforms that went into effect last year. Currently, the prefecture has three districts.
The No. 1 district, which mostly encompasses the city of Fukui in the north of the prefecture, is represented by Tomomi Inada, a right-wing Liberal Democratic Party policy chief and close ideological confidant of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The No. 2 district includes the inland town of Ono on the eastern flank of the prefecture, as well as municipalities just north of the city of Fukui on the border with Ishikawa. It’s represented by Taku Yamamoto, also of the LDP and the husband of internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, another close right-wing Abe confidant.
Fukui No. 3 is the nuclear power district. It includes the towns of Tsuruga, home to two reactors, one of which is 44 years old; Mihama, which hosts three reactors, two of them over 40 years old; Oi, where there are four reactors, two in excess of 35 years old; and Akahama, two of whose four reactors are, or soon will be, 40 years old. The No. 3 district is represented by the LDP’s Tsuyoshi Takagi, who appears to be less of an ideologue than Inada, although he once lent his support to a film denying the occurrence of the Rape of Nanking.
But more importantly for local pro-nuclear voters and Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates the above reactors, Takagi has always been a fierce supporter of atomic energy and played an influential Diet role in getting two of the Oi reactors restarted in 2012 despite nationwide opposition. Those units were shut down for inspection last year.
For the coming election, however, Fukui will have only two districts. The first is a nonnuclear zone, incorporating the city of Fukui and the towns in the north. The other covers the middle and southern part of the prefecture, where all of the nuclear plants are located, near the borders of Shiga and Kyoto prefectures.
The LDP has been weighing a plan to field Inada in the first district, Takagi in the second, and Yamamoto as a proportional representation candidate. As of late last week, discussions were ongoing.
At the moment, none of the opposition parties has announced any candidates. In the 2012 Lower House election, Takagi won the No. 3 district by nearly 50,000 votes against his Democratic Party of Japan rival, who ran on a mildly anti-nuclear platform. How Takagi will fare under the revised districts is uncertain.
But unless strong anti-nuclear candidates emerge in the coming days, it appears Takagi, Inada and Yamamoto will continue to represent Fukui in Diet deliberations over the prefecture’s old atomic plants for years to come.
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