The Niigata Prefecture gubernatorial election is over. Unfortunately, Chikako Ikeda, who campaigned against the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station (KKNPS) restart was defeated by 546,670 votes to her 509,568. In Kashiwazaki City, where KKNPS is located, votes for Ms. Ikeda exceeded those for the opposing candidate, Mr. Hideyo Hanazumi, by around 2,000.
While making careful statements about a KKNPS restart, such as “I will continue the ‘three verifications’ regarding the NPS undertaken by (the previous) Governor Yoneyama,” “The nuclear power station cannot be operated without the consent of the people of the prefecture,” and “I also have anxieties about nuclear power stations,” Mr. Hanazumi consistently repeated his stance of aiming for a nuclear-free society, and the difference between his platform and that of Ms. Ikeda, whose campaign emphasized opposition to the restart of KKNPS, was not made sufficiently clear to the voters.
According to a public opinion poll taken by the local Niigata Nippo newspaper company during the election period, 65% of prefecture residents indicated that they were opposed to the restart. It is clear that many citizens of Niigata Prefecture are demanding that Niigata extricate itself from the nuclear power policy.
Mr. Hanazumi, who is promoting a Niigata governance that “makes the people of the prefecture the top priority” will have to face up to this fact throughout his term of office.
Exit polls on polling day, June 10, revealed that 60.3% of voters ‘opposed’ a restart, of whom 63.0% voted for Ms. Ikeda, while 34.2% voted for Mr. Hanazumi. Mr. Hanazumi put forward a careful stance to the restart throughout the election, thereby gaining a certain amount of support from voters who are negative about a KKNPS restart. The main points of Mr. Hanazumi’s statements on KKNPS are as listed below.
(1) The prefecture’s unique verification work will continue without change to its mechanism.
(2) I will form a leader’s conclusion based on the results of the verification, which will be finalized in two to four years’ time.
(3) I will then hold a new election to test whether voters are satisfied with my conclusion. This may be the next gubernatorial election in four years’ time or it is also possible that I will put my post on the line if the verification process is completed before my term of office ends.
(4) Discussions on a restart cannot begin until the verification process has ended. Consequently, the NPS will not operate before the end of my current term of office.
(5) For the future, I will aim for a society in which NPSs do not exist.
Although various kinds of pressure are sure to be put on the new governor, who was supported by the political party currently in power in Japan, from the government and TEPCO, who want to see a rapid restart to KKNPS, Mr. Hanazumi should never forget that the eyes of the people of the prefecture will be watching his every move. The people of the prefecture must also be sure they do not relax their strict supervision of the governor.
Let’s confirm the four verifications that were pursued by the former governor, Mr. Ryuichi Yoneyama.
(1) The Technical Committee on Nuclear Power Safety Management in Niigata Prefecture (Technical Committee), 15 members
This committee was formed on the basis of provisions in the “safety agreement” formulated in February 2003, the year following the discovery that TEPCO had altered data from its own inspections at KKNPS. The committee gives technical advice and guidance to the prefecture when confirming items on securing safety at the NPS. At present, the committee is implementing a thorough investigation into the causes of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS).
(2) The Committee to Consider the Effects from Nuclear Accidents on Health and Livelihood of a Nuclear Power Station Accident in Niigata Prefecture (Health and Livelihood Committee), 9 members
Established in August 2017, the subcommittee on health (5 members) is carrying out a thorough investigation of the health impacts due to the Fukushima nuclear accident and the subcommittee on livelihood (4 members) is carrying out surveys on such topics as the transition in the number of evacuees and the situation of evacuee livelihoods after the Fukushima nuclear accident.
(3) The Committee to Consider Evacuation Methods in Nuclear Disasters in Niigata Prefecture (Evacuation Committee), 9 members.
This committee is to implement NPS disaster prevention drills while carrying out a thorough verification of the effectiveness of the evacuation plan.
(4) In addition, a Verification Supervisory Committee on Nuclear Power Accidents in Niigata Prefecture (Verification Supervisory Committee) with 7 members was also established in January 2018 to oversee and verify the individual verifications of the three verification committees mentioned above.
At the most recent Technical Committee meeting on May 18, 2018, explanations from the Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) and questions from the committee members were conducted following completion of the screening of compliance with the new regulatory standards of KKNPS Units 6 and 7 (completion of screening of the permission to alter the installation) by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on December 27, 2017.
The main questions and opinions were as follows:
(1) Siting guidelines relating to exposure of the prefecture residents and other matters have been deleted from the new regulatory standards and this will require future discussions.
(2) The government has not conducted an in-depth investigation into the meltdown issue. From the viewpoint of protecting the lives of the people, the government’s handling cannot be overlooked. Problems concerning information have not been made apparent in the screening.
(3) Installation standards have been raised, but phenomena exceeding the standards are also possible. How large is the safety margin?
(4) In Europe, for the first 30 minutes after the occurrence of an accident, a passive response involving no action by staff is supposed to take place. TEPCO says that this is simply a difference in thinking, but can’t a passive response also be thought to have its effective aspects?
(5) A rapid rate of increase of reactivity in the reactor will lead to damage to the nuclear fuel.
(6) It is necessary to increase the evaluation of seismic motion to account for material embrittlement.
(7) Regarding clarification of the chain of command, the former chief of FDNPS, Mr. Yoshida, said that “the manual just flew out the window!” Why did the screening approve this situation?
(8) Despite the fact that the Technical Committee has requested many times that the Nuclear Regulation Agency and Authority attend meetings of this committee, why do you not come?
(9) There is not one resident of this prefecture that believes TEPCO is sufficiently competent to be permitted to restart the NPS. TEPCO has betrayed the people of the prefecture any number of times. I request that you conduct a rescreening regarding competency.
(10) The fifth level of defense in depth should be checked.
Thus the committee members put forward stern indications of both a scientific and technical nature. NRA was almost completely unable to make valid rebuttals and did little more than make excuses. The committee members will submit further questions, some of which will be in writing. These are likely to be even tougher questions and indications.
The Verification Supervisory Committee, which will oversee the work of the other three verification committees, consists of the chair and vicechair of each of the committees and a chairperson, seven members in all. Emeritus Professor of Nagoya University (and Emeritus Professor of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Satoru Ikeuchi, has been inaugurated as the chairperson. The Verification Supervisory Committee will accept the reports of the verification results from each of the committees, organize the arguments, prepare an overall summary and report the final verification outcomes to the governor.
The first meeting of the Verification Supervisory Committee was held on February 16. At the meeting, Chairperson Ikeuchi stated, “In the situation where the neither the government nor the Diet has done anything to verify the Fukushima nuclear accident, it is extremely significant that Niigata Prefecture is proceeding with its own verification.” Chairperson Ikeuchi also enumerated the following five points. (1) Information should be shared such that each committee is able to grasp an overall picture of the situation, (2) Points which require further discussion should be pointed out by each of the committees, (3) Each of the committees should discuss the issues that need to be handled by the Verification Supervisory Committee, (4) While thorough scientific investigations will be made, each committee should also present views and recommendations on “trans-science issues” from various standpoints, and (5) The Verification Supervisory Committee will also listen to the voices of a broad range of the people of the prefecture.
The Verification Supervisory Committee will also conduct its own verification of TEPCO’s “competency” as a nuclear power operator.
According to the questionnaire survey conducted with the residents of the nine cities, towns and villages within a 30km radius of KKNPS conducted in November and December last year by Emeritus Professor of Tokyo Women’s University, Hirotada Hirose, 58.5% opposed a restart of the NPS, the opposition to a restart by women being 67.3%. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority, 73.6%, thought that consent of municipalities in the 30km zone was necessary for consent to restart the NPS.
In the case of a nuclear accident which results in a complex disaster, 76.6% responded “I think evacuation will be impossible,” clarifying that a large proportion of the population is pessimistic about evacuation at the time of an accident.
In the first place, the Fukushima nuclear accident cannot yet be said to have been brought to an end, and it is absolutely unacceptable that TEPCO should be allowed to walk away from its half-baked compensation, including to the people who evacuated but have been unable to return to their hometowns, and allowed to restart KKNPS. TEPCO is neither qualified nor competent to operate an NPS.