Anti-nuclear Niigata governor resigns over sex scandal in move likely to impact restart of key power plant

Kyodo, Staff Report

Niigata Prefecture Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama resigned Wednesday over what he described as “misunderstandings” in relationships with several women, a move that is almost certain to influence discussions on whether to approve the restart of nuclear reactors in the region.

Yoneyama has been cautious about the reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex on the Sea of Japan coast.

Speaking about one of the women he was involved with, Yoneyama claimed he had tried “to win her favor.”

“I gave her gifts and money,” he told a news conference. “The action caused a misunderstanding. … I had romantic feelings.”

Just hours before he met with reporters, the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported online that the 50-year-old, who was elected in 2016 with the backing of anti-nuclear parties, had paid a university student ¥30,000 several times for “sex.”

Yoneyama told reporters he was aware that his “sugar daddy dating” could be regarded as “prostitution,” adding that he met the student through an online dating service.

Yoneyama, a bachelor, admitted to having similar relations with several different women before and after he was elected.

Calls for Yoneyama’s resignation had been growing within the prefecture after he said Tuesday he was considering quitting after being notified that the magazine was expected to run a story about the scandal in its latest edition, which hit newsstands Thursday.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex, needs local approval to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex — one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants.

Yoneyama, a graduate of the University of Tokyo who has both medical and law licenses, has cited what he called the “unresolved” 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the lack of preparedness at the larger facility in his own prefecture as his rationale for opposing its restart.