An advocate of atomic power plants has steamrolled his anti-nuclear rival in the Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, mayoral election, garnering more than seven times as many votes as his opponent.
Sunday’s election followed the resignation of the former mayor, who had backed the recent restart of the Ikata nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor.
The previous mayor resigned in August after being hospitalized.
New Mayor Kiyohiko Takakado, a 58-year-old former member of the prefectural assembly, had the backing of the former mayor and all 16 members of the town’s assembly. During the campaign he vowed to continue the policies of his predecessor, Kazuhiko Yamashika.
His rival, 59-year-old Naohito Nishii of the Japanese Communist Party, had urged the town not remain dependent on nuclear power. He was backed by the JCP’s local chapter as well as anti-nuclear citizens’ groups.
Nishii was trounced in the election, garnering just 765 votes to Takakado’s 5,451 in a race with 71.45 percent voter turnout.
“I will completely carry out safety measures for the nuclear power plant,” Takakado said after his victory was assured. “I will also tackle the issues of the town’s aging population and depopulation.”
Shikoku Electric Power Co. reactivated the Ikata plant’s No. 3 reactor in August. It was the first time in more than five years that the reactor was switched on since it was suspended for a routine safety inspection in April 2011.
It is the only reactor in Japan currently burning mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel. It was the nation’s fifth reactor that was rebooted under the stricter safety regulations introduced in July 2013 based on the 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.
Besides Ikata, the only nuclear plant currently in operation in Japan is Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai facility in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Yamashita, the former mayor, resigned Aug. 29 after being hospitalized in April.
The Ehime Shimbun reported at the time that he had suffered a stroke that resulted in him having problems speaking.