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Japanese village reconsiders nuclear power

  |   Oct. 24, 2011 at 12:53 PM
TOKYO, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The mayor of Tokai, Japan, is calling for the decommissioning of the village's nuclear reactors.

Tokai, dubbed the birthplace of Japan's nuclear power, was where the nation's first commercial nuclear reactor began operation in 1966. The village of just approximately 20 square miles in Ibaraki Prefecture has 12 nuclear power-related facilities.

One-third of Tokai's 38,000 residents either work in or has a relative who has a job in some aspect of the nuclear power sector, Mainichi news reports.

Even some of its street names glorify the power source. Two streets are named in honor of the Japan Atomic Power Company and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Tatsuya Murakami, mayor of Tokai since 1997, in past electionsurged "coexistence with nuclear power."

But that mindset has changed as a result of the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that led to a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

"Looking at how Fukushima has been handled, I've realized that Japan isn't capable of controlling the massive science and technology of nuclear power. I've come to feel that Japan isn't entitled to it, and have decided that we have no other choice but to abandon nuclear power," Murakami told the newspaper.

"The government thinks nothing of the fact that there are 54 nuclear reactors in one of the world's most earthquake-prone areas."

Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant shut down automatically when the March quake and tsunami struck.

"We were told (immediately after the quake) that everything (at the plant) was fine but that was not true at all," Murakami said.

Instead, he explained, the facility lost its external power source and one of its three emergency diesel generators was crippled because of the tsunami. It took more than three days for the plant to reach "cold shutdown" status, a level it should have attained in about 24 hours.

Even though nuclear power-related revenue accounts for about 30 percent of Tokai's total revenue, Murakami stands firm in urging decommissioning of the plants.

"Our village may have reaped benefits for 30 or 40 years. But if we lose our homeland in return, what's the point?" he said.

Speaking last month during a U.N. meeting on nuclear safety and security, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Japan is "determined to raise the safety of nuclear power generation to the highest level in the world."

Noda and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, meeting in Tokyo Sunday, agreed that the countries would boost cooperation on nuclear safety, news agency Kyodo reports.

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