Nuclear stance helps doctor win Niigata

NIIGATA — Ryuichi Yoneyama, a nuclear-cautious physician recommended by three opposition parties, won Sunday’s Niigata gubernatorial election, defeating three other independent candidates including former Nagaoka Mayor Tamio Mori, who was recommended by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

Article by Japan News

The question over reactivating Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture became the major point of contention during the campaign. The victory for Yoneyama, who is circumspect about the prospect of reactivation, will undoubtedly influence national energy policy.

Yoneyama, 49, was supported by the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party (previously known as the People’s Life Party) and the Social Democratic Party.

“Let me make clear that I cannot approve the reactivation of the nuclear power plant in the current circumstances whereby it remains impossible to guarantee the protection of lives and livelihoods,” he said to supporters on Sunday night from his Niigata office.

While a governor does not have the legal authority to be directly involved in decisions with regards to the operation of nuclear power plants, the central government hopes to obtain the consent of local residents ahead of the resumption of plant operations. However, following the election of Yoneyama, it will likely prove difficult for the central government to obtain the desired consent of the prefecture.

Among other prefectures in which nuclear plants are located, Satoshi Mitazono, who had called for the suspension of operations and reinspection of the Sendai nuclear power plant, won the Kagoshima gubernatorial election in July.

Outgoing Gov. Hirohiko Izumida, who did not contest the latest gubernatorial election, continued to express a cautious stance on reactivation, saying, “We cannot consider the reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant without further progress in the verification of circumstances surrounding the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.”

Yoneyama pledged to maintain Izumida’s stance, further emphasizing, “Discussions cannot begin until further verification is conducted on such issues as the cause of the nuclear accident, the impact on the health and daily lives of people, and safe evacuation means in case of future accidents.”

Voter turnout was 53.05 percent, up from 43.95 percent in the previous gubernatorial election.

Abe takes result seriously

“It’s disappointing that the candidate supported by the ruling parties was defeated in the election,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the Special Committee of the House of Representatives on the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday. “We will take this result seriously.”

“Now that the result of the election have come out, naturally we will cooperate with Gov. Yoneyama,” he added.

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