After 30 years of protest can Iwai-shima breathe easy?

Chugoku Shinbun reported on September 15 that, in light of the DJP government’s new energy policy, Chugoku Power will “move in the direction of halting development” of the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture.  The power company has commented that it finds the Noda government’s rejection of nuclear power generation “exceedingly regrettable” and the paper reports that with local opposition to the cancellation the plan is by no means dead.

The then mayor of Kaminoseki-cho gave the go ahead for a nuclear power plant back in 1982. If the the plan is definitively scrapped, it will be largely thanks to the efforts of the people of tiny Iwai-shima, which faces the proposed site, and their supporters whose direct action has postponed preliminary landfill work 9 times. Despite 30 years of protest, it seemed that the power company would eventually win the day. Their refusal to give up, however, ensured that formal construction was not begun before the Great East Japan Earthquake and the following Fukushima nuclear crisis which has led to a reappraisal of Japan’s energy policy. This means that even in light of METI Minister Edano’s back-pedaling on Noda’s zero nuclear announcement, suggesting that the government may allow the resumption of construction of nuclear plants already in progress at the time of the Tohoku disaster (this would include work on the Shimane nuclear power plant  9km from the city of Matsue which is near completion), the Kaminoseki plan would not receive a reprieve.

With Noda’s zero nuclear plan still vague at best, and his government far from secure, we can be sure that this is not the end of the battle over Kaminoseki. Chugoku Power doesn’t want to see the 900 billion yen it says it has spent on the project thus far go for nought, and there are still strong voices in Kaminoseki who see the plant as essential in the survival and future development of the rural town.

Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of and loves running in the mountains.