A representative from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry held a rare meeting with local residents in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, on Thursday night to explain the government's stance on restarting two nuclear reactors at the Fukui plant.
Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa, a senior vice minister, met with about 550 residents for 90 minutes to gain their understanding for the proposed restart of Nos. 3 and 4 nuclear reactors at the plant operated by Kansai Electric Power Co.
Security was tight at the meeting held in a gymnasium, Fuji TV reported. Attendants had to pass through metal detectors. Outside, anti-nuclear protesters held a rally.
Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka, who must decide whether to approve the restart of the reactors, said he asked for the meeting because he wanted the central government to clearly explain to residents "in person" why restarting the reactor is necessary, Fuji reported. Invitations were sent to around 3,200 households.
If the government's plan goes ahead, the Oi reactors will be the first to be restarted following mandatory safety checks since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 2011.
Yanagisawa assured local residents that even if the reactor was hit by an earthquake and tsunami comparable to what hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a repeat of that disaster was not possible at Oi.
"Since the Tohoku earthquake, we have bolstered safety at the plants. Experts have given them their seal of approval," Yanagisawa said.
One resident replied, "We were given similar assurances about the Fukushima plant, but we are all aware of the current situation there," according to Fuji TV.
After the meeting, many residents complained that they had not been given enough time or information to make a judgement.
Opinion on the issue is divided because the nuclear power plant employs many residents and the town's economy depends on it for survival.
Media commentators said this division put both sides in an awkward position. One commentator on NHK said that if pro-nuclear residents get their way and another disaster happens, they feel they would be blamed, while anti-nuclear residents feel they would be in the firing line if the local economy suffers. Hence, few people spoke up at the meeting, he said.© Japan Today