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2013年1月25日 (金)

原発住民投票案 新潟県議会の否決は当然だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 25, 2013)
Niigata made right decision in rejecting nuclear referendum
原発住民投票案 新潟県議会の否決は当然だ(1月24日付・読売社説)

It is the government's responsibility to decide whether to restart reactors at nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed. It is unreasonable to leave such a decision up to referendums.

The Niigata Prefectural Assembly rejected Wednesday a draft ordinance on holding a referendum to ask residents whether they would support the restart of reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.

Assembly members from the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan--which hold a majority in the assembly--opposed the draft, saying whether to support resuming the operations of nuclear reactors is not an appropriate topic for a referendum.

We think the assembly made a proper judgment.

The draft ordinance was requested last month of Gov. Hirohiko Izumida by a citizens organization that collected signatures from about 68,000 residents in the prefecture.

What is hard to understand, however, is Izumida's reaction to the draft.

The governor released a written statement on Jan. 16, in which he expressed some concerns about the draft.
"A referendum cannot reflect appropriately the will of residents as it asks them to simply vote yes or no," the statement said. "Holding a referendum would mean that residents living in an area hosting a nuclear plant are asked to make a decision about an issue the central government should deal with."


Governor's response confusing

We think Izumida made reasonable points.

At the same time, however, the statement said the assembly should amend the draft ordinance by the citizens organization and pass the amended ordinance. The governor also remarked that a referendum should be held.

Izumida appeared to be simultaneously stepping on the gas and the brake regarding the draft ordinance, so it is only natural that some members of the assembly criticized his attitude as difficult to understand.

The assembly also rejected another draft ordinance that reflected Izumida's statement.

Regarding the assembly's reaction, the governor said: "I understand that [the draft ordinances] were rejected because the assembly believes that [the reactivation of nuclear reactors] is not an appropriate topic for a referendum because the issue involves national policy. It's very disappointing."

We wonder if Izumida made such a comment out of consideration for the residents who requested a referendum as opponents of nuclear power generation.

Referendums should deal with issues that only concern residents within a certain area, such as mergers of municipalities. They should not address energy issues and those related to U.S. military bases, which are closely related to the nation's security.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, the Osaka Municipal Assembly and the Shizuoka Prefectural Assembly have also rejected similar draft ordinances on holding referendums to decide whether to give the go-ahead to restarting nuclear reactors. These developments suggest that the idea that a nuclear issue is not an appropriate topic for a referendum has been taking root.


Stable energy supply threatened

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a policy of resuming operations of nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world's largest facilities of its kind, accounts for more than 10 percent of TEPCO's generation capacity. The plant has relatively new equipment as its first reactor started operating in 1985.

If the plant's seven reactors are not restarted, the electricity supply for the Tokyo metropolitan area could become unstable. TEPCO might raise its electricity charges again because of a further increase in fuel costs for thermal power generation.

This situation would negatively affect Niigata Prefecture--for example, in terms of employment--even though it is not part of TEPCO's service areas.

When the safety of the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is confirmed, Izumida should work with the government to achieve their smooth reactivation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2013)
(2013年1月24日01時07分  読売新聞)


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