As election gears up, governor vows to block reactor restart at Tokai nuclear plant

Kyodo

Ibaraki Gov. Masaru Hashimoto said Thursday he will not consent to restarting the sole reactor at the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant in the village of Tokai, which went offline in March 2011 after a nuclear disaster unfolded in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture.

Hashimoto’s pledge, coming on the day his campaigning for a seventh term as governor officially got under way, goes further than his previous calls for a conditional restart.

“I will not approve a restart,” Hashimoto said at an event marking the launch of his official campaign for the Aug. 27 gubernatorial election. “I will steer in the direction of not accepting nuclear power.”

The possible restarting the plant, which sits along the Pacific coast, is among the contentious issues in the election.

Hashimoto, 71, is pitted against two contenders: Kazuhiko Oigawa, a 53-year-old former company executive backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, and Makomi Tsuruta, a 52-year-old head of a nonprofit group supported by the Japanese Communist Party.

In announcing his plan to run back in July, Hashimoto set conditions for a reactor restart, saying, “We will not give consent to restarting unless the safety of the plant and its evacuation plan are shown to be viable.”

The Japan Atomic Power Co. reactor was shut down automatically as a powerful earthquake hit the Tohoku region. The March 11, 2011, quake triggered a tsunami that went on to cause multiple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.