The decision by Takahama Town’s mayor ignores the Japanese people’s constitutionally protected right to human dignity.
In making his decision to approve the restart of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors, Mayor Yukata Nose has ignored significant unsolved safety issues with these reactors. He also represents only the host community – a tiny fraction of the many millions of people in both Fukui prefecture and the wider Kansai region. His approval can hardly be construed as meeting the need for public consent prior to restart.
Not that he had much of a choice. Takahama Town, like many nuclear host communities, has been held in economic captivity by the industry for decades. Instead of providing a viable path out of the shadow of nuclear risks, the Abe government and KEPCO have only sought to deepen their dependency for years to come.
Even with the local economic predicament in Takahama Town itself, the majority of town residents agree that potentially impacted people outside their community should have a say in whether the reactors restart – with over 60% indicating so in a recent NHK poll. The poll also found that roughly half of Takahama Town residents are concerned about the inadequate evacuation plan and are dissatisfied with the public briefings regarding any restarts.
The powerful Union of Kansai Governments, representing 21 million potentially impacted people in the region, has twice demanded a formal role in the restart process and issued lists of demands that need to be met prior to restart.
To date, those demands remain largely unanswered and unacknowledged.
Yet, even with this town’s approval, the restart of Takahama 3 and 4 is barred by an injunction issued by the Fukui District Court.
The court ruled in April 2015 that restarting the two reactors, owned by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), would be a violation of citizens’ constitutionally protected right to human dignity due to significant unresolved safety problems.
Put simply, Mayor Nose has given his approval to restart reactors whose operation is so risky in their present state that it would violate Japanese citizens’ human rights, according to the unanimous decision of a 3 judge panel after weighing extensive expert testimony and technical analysis on the current unresolved problems.
The unresolved issues at Takahama 3 and 4 include, their potential vulnerability to earthquakes, lack of proper safeguards for their nuclear waste storage facilities, and the lack of an adequate offsite emergency command center.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has yet to complete inspections at the two reactors.
In addition, there is no feasible emergency plan in place. Sections of the only available evacuation road away from the area are in a tsunami flood zone.
Not only is Mayor Nose risking the safety of his own town’s citizens but also potentially that of people beyond Takahama. The potential impact of a nuclear accident at the town’s reactors stretches far further than the immediate vicinity. The Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters taught us that the hard way.
The Fukui prefectural governor has yet to grant his consent for restart. Let us hope he steps forward as a truly strong leader, for the people of Japan – not just in Fukui, but all those millions of lives at risk by these restarts throughout the region – and refuses to bend to nuclear industry interests.
Also, any consent given for the restarts must include all communities that are potentially impacted by a disaster.
It comes down to this: to restart the reactors without that broader consent would be yet another failure on the part of Japan’s nuclear industry to learn the lessons of the Fukushima disaster.
And while that nuclear crisis is ongoing, decontamination largely ineffective and failing, and lives still in limbo nearly five years later, the people of Japan deserve strong leaders with the courage to stand on the right side of history and against this dirty, dangerous, and outdated technology.
Kendra Ulrich is Senior Global Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.
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