TOKYO Oct 12 A Japanese mayor has called on the
government to decommission the nuclear reactor in his village,
110 km northeast of Tokyo, the first local leader to urge
scrapping a reactor as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda tries to
rehabilitate the tarnished nuclear sector to help meet the
nation's power needs.
The reactor at Tokaimura, where Japan's commercial nuclear
power industry was born in the late 1950s, has been shut since a
devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northeast Japan on
March 11. It entered routine maintenance in May and is not due
to restart until August 2012.
Only 10 of Japan's 54 commercial reactors remain operating
seven months after the March disaster triggered a crisis at
Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,
as safety fears have left local authorities wary of restarting
reactors once they go offline for routine maintenance.
But Tokaimura Mayor Tatsuya Murakami was the first local
official to call for scrapping a reactor altogether, warning
that, if the wave that struck his village on March 11 had been
slightly higher, the Tokai Daini reactor could have posed far
graver danger than the Fukushima plant, as 1 million people live
within a 30-km radius and it is much closer to Tokyo.
A Tokaimura official said on Wednesday that Murakami made
his plea at a meeting the day before with nuclear disaster
minister Goshi Hosono.
"Shouldn't the plant be decommissioned?" he was quoted as
telling the meeting.
The 33-year old reactor still has seven years
before its operating licence expires and Tokyo Electric Power Co
had been counting on the 1,100-megawatt facility to
help it make up for the 4,700 megawatts of lost power from the
crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Prime Minister Noda has said that offline reactors under
maintenance should restart once local authorities confirm they
are safe, taking a softer line than his predecessor Naoto Kan,
who concluded in March that nuclear power was no longer worth
the risk after the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Japan's nuclear plant operators are preparing to report the
results of reactor stress tests to the country's nuclear
watchdog, the first step in a lengthy process that would
ultimately require local authorities' approval for restarts.
Since the onset of the Fukushima crisis, Murakami has called
on Japan to better care for residents who were forced to leave
Fukushima prefecture because of the crisis and to stop operating
old reactors given lax safety rules and a lack of contingency
Murakami was Tokaimura's mayor in 1999 when a criticality
accident at a Tokaimura uranium reprocessing facility resulted
in two deaths, the worst nuclear accident in Japan until the
Japan Atomic Power, in which Fukushima plant
operator Tokyo Electric Power is a major shareholder, brought
its sole reactor at the Tokai Daini plant in Ibaraki prefecture
to a state of cold shutdown on March 15.
(Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Edmund Klamann)