The town assembly of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, which hosts Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant, will decide by March 20 whether to approve the restart of the plant’s No. 3 and 4 reactors, which recently cleared central government inspections.

The decision by the assembly, which is generally seen as pro-nuclear, will be based on whether five basic conditions the prefecture requested of the central government in mid-February are met to their satisfaction. These include central government explanations to local residents on the importance of the reactors, the safety measures being taken, and a plan for dealing with midterm storage of the spent nuclear fuel they produce.

The prefectural government also wants to know how big nuclear’s role in the overall energy mix will be, how the lessons of the Fukushima meltdowns will be applied to Takahama, and what kind of assistance other local governments hosting nuclear power plants will receive for employment and economic issues when plants are decommissioned.

In addition to the above, the Takahama assembly will canvass residents on whether they want the plant to be restarted. While not legally required, obtaining local permission for restarts is a long-established practice. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who is also generally seen to be pro-nuclear, will have the final say, which is expected to come after the nationwide round of local elections in April.

One condition that neither the municipal nor the prefectural government sought was specific language demanding that neighboring cities and towns in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures that are within 30 km of Takahama also give formal permission for the restart. Under new guidelines adopted after 3/11, all local governments lying fully or partially within a 30-km radius of a nuclear power plant have to draft evacuation plans.

On Friday, a general safety agreement including Kepco, the Kyoto Prefectural Government, and the heads of seven towns and villages within 30 km of Takahama, was signed at prefectural headquarters following weeks of discussions.

Under the agreement, which is the first of its kind, the Kyoto localities will establish a joint committee to work together with Kepco, which will provide them with information about the reactors. As parts of Maizuru, a city in Kyoto with a population of nearly 89,000, lie within five km of the Takahama plant, Kepco has agreed to consult its officials about safety measures and respond to their opinions.

Kepco has also promised to provide Kyoto officials with an explanation of why it needs to build more reactors, should the utility decide to do so, and to provide prior notice if either spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste is transported through the prefecture.

A survey by anti-nuclear citizens in Kyoto and Shiga conducted between Jan. 16 and Feb. 25 on 97 local assembly members in the seven Kyoto and two Shiga localities within 30 km of Takahama showed that 77 percent said they thought it was necessary to obtain their permission for a restart.

About 127,500 people in seven Kyoto prefectural cities, towns, and villages with a total population of 277,500 live within 30 km of the Takahama plant. Part of Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, which has a population of about 52,500, also lies within that zone.

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