New Japan nuclear reactor prompts local debate

Featured - October 3rd, 2012

Plans to restart construction of a nuclear reactor in Aomori Prefecture, about 500km northeast of Tokyo, was met by contradicting sentiments from the host town and surrounding cities, Asahi Shimbun reports.

Electric Power Development Co. president, Masoyashi Kitamura, reiterated the significance of resuming construction of a nuclear plant in Oma during a town assembly. The Oma plant plans to use “mixed oxide (MOX) fuel” from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel to generate power, the world’s first nuclear plant to do so. “The Oma nuclear plant is an important power plant that will play a part in the nuclear fuel cycle,” Kitamura said.

The plan was reportedly largely welcomed by Oma residents, who thrive on the local nuclear industry. “Local industry has been dependent on the nuclear plant,” Ryuji Hase, director of the Kitadori commerce and industry cooperative association told Asahi Shimbun. “With construction halted for one and a half years, many enterprises were close to the limits they could sustain. News of the resumption has brought us major hope”.

However, nearby cities were alarmed of the plan. The city government of Hakodate, in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island-prefecture, demanded a permanent halt to construction. “The central government’s go-ahead for construction is based on the safety myth that prevailed before the Fukushima disaster,” Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo said.

Japan is struggling with debates on phasing out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s energy strategy was opposed by nuclear allies and nuclear industries.