Ehime has become the second prefecture to approve restarting a nuclear plant idled in the wake the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura conveyed his approval for reactivating the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant late last month. His decision, which follows the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture in August and October, was problematic not only because of the process but also because it was made despite concerns over the safe evacuation of nearby residents in the event of a severe accident — a concern due to the site’s unique geographical features.
Nakamura used to say that he had no preconceived notions about restarting the Ikata plant. But his decision came rather suddenly and he chose not to fully explain to local residents how he reached it. Nor did he create opportunities to listen to their opinions prior to making his decision. He opted not to hold a public meeting to explain his decision on the grounds that such a gathering would only lead to the mobilization of people organized by groups on both sides of the nuclear debate — despite the fact that such events play a critical role in a democracy. An open public meeting would have given residents a chance to think deeply about the issue of nuclear energy in general and the merits and demerits of the Ikata No. 3 reactor restart in particular.