Three days before the vote to elect the next governor of their region, a handful of residents of Kashiwazaki, a sleeping coastal town in northern Japan, stood on a sidewalk to hear the race’s long-shot competitor warnings about the dangers of nuclear power.
Four years ago, Naomi Katagiri, who is running for re-election to the governorship of Niigata Prefecture on Sunday, was drawing a much larger, more focused crowd.
At the time, when they last elected their governor, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was fresh in the minds of voters, and the policy on what was an important source of power for Japan was at the front and center of a city that is home to the world. The largest nuclear power plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, is operated by Fukushima Daiichi owner Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).
Today, voters have other concerns.
According to a recent survey by the Niigata Nippo newspaper, rising energy costs and economic woes from the COVID-19 epidemic have centered, and nuclear power is only fifth among issues important to voters.
In the 2018 race, that was the main problem.
With the war in Ukraine and a weak Yen hitting families, the Niigata vote will be closely monitored as a measure of Japanese voters’ readiness to reclaim nuclear power.
Dozens of reactors in Japan were idle after the Fukushima disaster due to a massive earthquake and tsunami. Only 10 are now operational, compared to 54 before the Fukushima disaster.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
Poll hints at an easy win for Hanajumi.
Resource-poor Japan imports almost all of its energy and bans Russian oil and coal as part of sanctions for its aggression in Ukraine, prompting pro-nuclear lawmakers to pursue their case.
“We want to use this victory as an opportunity to accelerate the nationwide resumption,” a senior LDP lawmaker told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Political sources say efforts to bring the nuclear plants back to work are likely to begin in earnest after the July election of the upper house.
The government plans to increase its contribution to nuclear energy to 20-22% by 2030. Concerned about security, and given Tepco’s repeated compliance violations since the 2011 disaster, Kishida said it would only be reopened with proper security clearances and the public. Approval
Town in Decline
The Kashiwazaki plant transmitted electricity to the Tokyo area 265 km (165 miles) south, and the effects of its laziness are evident.
The city’s main shopping street, many businesses are closed. The “for rent” signs are common.
A few years ago, the main supermarket chain Eto-Yokado came out decades later, a big blow to what city residents said. The three multi-storey hotels face the main train station, but their rooms are mostly empty.
The city’s population has shrunk by 12% since the nuclear plant shut down less than 80,000. The city says its economy shrank 11% between 2012 and 2019.
People on both sides of the nuclear debate say the vote cannot ignore economic discomfort.
“Voters’ priority now must be economic policy, not nuclear power,” Shizuo Makino, head of Rango Niigata, Niigata’s largest labor organization, told Reuters this week.
Trade unions are backing Hanazumi after backing his anti-nuclear rival in 2018, citing his record on labor.
Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person. Nuclear regulators last year objected to a TEPCO plan to reintroduce Kashiwazaki-Kariwa after identifying inadequate security, including the misuse of ID cards.
Hanazumi himself has tried to move away from the nuclear issue and, when asked about it, echoed the official line that safety is a priority.
Even anti-nuclear activists acknowledge that their preferred candidate’s warnings about the dangers of the nuclear plant are largely falling on deaf ears.
“Many people think nuclear power is dangerous,” said Takashi Miyazaki, former Kashiwazaki city councilor of the anti-nuclear Japanese Communist Party.
“But a desperate desire to do something about the economic collapse of this city has helped to spread the feeling that nuclear restart is the quick answer.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)