An agreement recently reached between Japan Atomic Power Co. and six municipalities in Ibaraki Prefecture concerning the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant highlights the sensitivities in the relationship between power companies and local governments in areas where nuclear power facilities are located. For the first time as a nuclear power plant operator, Japan Atomic Power included not just the plant’s host village of Tokai but five nearby cities as municipalities whose consent the firm will seek in restarting the idled plant. The company will not reactivate the Tokai plant if any of the municipalities opposed the move.
Other power companies are keen to see that this agreement does not set a precedent that could also change their arrangements with nearby municipalities concerning their own nuclear plants — because that would complicate the process for winning local endorsement for restarting their idled reactors. However, it’s reasonable that municipalities in the surrounding areas of nuclear plants want to be involved in the process because they would be affected in the event of a severe accident. The power companies should respond to such requests flexibly if they wish to obtain the full cooperation of nearby municipalities.