governor threatens to reject nuclear fuel sent to recycling plant
The Japan Times, October 11, 2002
Original address: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20021011b3.htm
Aomori Gov. Morio Kimura said Thursday he might not allow spent nuclear
fuel to be shipped to a fuel-processing plant in his prefecture if the
national government fails to properly deal with his requests for assurances.
His comments suggest the nation's nuclear fuel-cycle policy could be
brought to a standstill following massive damage to public confidence
in the nuclear industry due to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s coverups of
problems with its reactors.
But Kimura said that so far he has not been disappointed by the national
"If our requests are not accepted, we could refuse spent nuclear
fuel to be shipped to the fuel-processing plant in the village of Rokkasho,"
Kimura said at a news conference in Tokyo after a meeting with top government
officials on nuclear policy.
If that happens, the Aomori Prefectural Government would "make
a critical decision" about the planned start of operations at the
reprocessing plant in July 2005. The plant is at the core of plans to
recycle plutonium produced in nuclear plants.
But the governor also said that Takeo Hiranuma, minister of economy,
trade and industry, responded positively in the meeting, which Chief
Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda also attended.
Kimura called for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a nuclear
safety watchdog, to be spun off from the Ministry of Economy, Trade
and Industry, which promotes nuclear power.
In response, Hiranuma said he takes the request seriously and will
sincerely consider how to ensure the agency's independence and national
nuclear safety regulations, a METI official said.
However, METI Vice Minister Seiji Murata suggested during a regular
news conference later in the day that there are no plans to separate
"Regarding the issue of organization, I have repeatedly answered
this question," Murata said. The ministry has resisted political
calls for making the watchdog independent.
Kimura also urged the national government to give local governments
of prefectures with nuclear facilities a stronger say under the Atomic
Energy Fundamental Law and other relevant legislation. He asked for
a response before the Aomori Prefectural Assembly convenes in late November.
Fukuda and other government officials reiterated their determination
to establish the nuclear fuel cycle as a pillar of Japan's nuclear policy,
according to the METI official.