Living together with Nuclear Power Plants
Local people bear the risk as well as enjoy the benefit. (Ohi Town)
November 16th, 2016
by Yoshihiro Hosokawa

Japan is an island nation, one with very few of its own energy resources, such as oil and natural gas.  As of 2012, its energy self-sufficiency rate was a mere 6%, the second lowest among OECD member countries.  It has no power grid or pipeline to be accommodated with energy from other countries, either.

Since the country industrialized after World War II, the domestic demand for energy has been growing in Japan.  To meet the demand and achieve energy security, many nuclear plants were built, especially from the 1970s to the 2000s.  As of 2016, the number of nuclear reactors in Japan is 43, the third-highest behind the United States and France.

%e2%91%a04de4c741Fukui (福井) has 11 nuclear reactors, providing electrical power to Osaka (大阪) and other areas in the Kansai (関西) region.  According to the Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. (関西電力・KEPCO), a major electric utility in Kansai, 44% of its total energy was generated by nuclear power in 2010.

161126nuclearpowerplant1One of those plants producing power is the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant (大飯発電所), built and operated by KEPCO. It can be found on Oshima Peninsula (大島半島) in Ohi town (おおい町), a small region in southwestern Fukui.  The peninsula is a land-tied island, i.e., a landform consisting of an island that is connected to the mainland by a tombolo.  Historically, the peninsula was really inaccessible and inconvenient.   Ships were the only means of transportation for local people.  Ferry service to the mainland arrived just four times a day.   In case of an emergency, they had to paddle a canoe across the sea.

%e2%91%a2%e5%a4%a7%e5%b3%b6%e5%9c%b0%e5%8c%ba4f86988fWhile constructing the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant in the early 1970s, a 743-meter-bridge to Oshima Peninsula, named Aoto-no-Ohashi (青戸の大橋) was opened in 1974.  The residents of this  “inaccessible land” had hoped for such a bridge for a long time. KEPCO spent 2.27 billion yen (about 22 million dollars) on extending the road by 10 kilometers to the peninsula via the bridge.  The construction of the nuclear power plant and the extension of the road were two sides of the same coin.

インバウンド・県内の原発Local fishermen accepted land compensation and compensation for fishing rights.  Some of them renovated their houses and started B&Bs (Bed and Breakfast).  Many people, such as beachgoers, fishing tourists and even workers at nuclear power plants, visited and stayed there, which greatly enriched the lives of the local residents in the years after the 1970s.  Thus, nuclear power plants created employment opportunities, contributed to economic benefits, and changed the daily life of local people.


However, there have been some negative consequences as well. Anxiety over nuclear power is prevalent and radiation accidents and incidents, such as radioactive leakage, has occurred several times.  Due to people’s distrust of nuclear power, tourists numbers have drastically declined.  Fish sales soured because of harmful rumors, which has annoyed local fishermen.  The anti-nuclear power movement grew in and around the area.  They had lived their life for a long time, both bearing the risk and enjoying the benefits of nuclear power.

%e3%81%8a%e3%81%8a%e3%81%84%e3%81%9f%e3%81%a6The earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered the world’s 2nd-worst nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (福島第一原発), which ended the nuclear ‘safety myth’ in Japan.  Following the Fukushima disaster, all nuclear reactors in Japan were shut down.  Although nuclear energy had been a national strategic priority after the 1973 oil shock, it came under review and politically polarized the Diet.  Anti-nuclear power movement has since campaigned more aggressively.  Calls against nuclear power have grown louder all over Japan; even in the urban areas where electricity has been provided by power plants in Fukui.  They have been harshly criticizing the towns that agreed to build nuclear power plants during the old energy policies drafted over 40 years ago, which has hurt and distressed local people.

%e2%91%a6%e5%8f%8d%e5%af%be%e6%b4%be%e3%83%bb%e5%a4%a7%e9%a3%af%e5%8e%9f%e7%99%ba%e3%82%b2%e3%83%bc%e3%83%88%e5%89%8d4ff046c7To resume operations, a nuclear power plant is required to meet the post-Fukushima safety standards.  As of November 2016, no reactor is in operation in Fukui.  The three aging reactors have all been retired.   Local people have mixed feelings, on one hand hoping to get back to their normal lives, coexisting with nuclear power plants, but on the other hand as feeling anxious about the dependence on them in a post Fukushima world.

dsc_0021In the future, nuclear power might be replaced with renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.  But until then, the reality is that there are still 6,000 people who have spent much of their own lives living together with the Ohi Nuclear Power Plants.










2011年の東日本大震災により、福島第1原子力発電所事故が発生し、原子力発電に対する「安全神話」が崩れました。この事故後、日本の原子炉はすべて停止しました。 1973年の第1次オイルショック以降の原子力を優先する国の戦略は見直され、議会を二分する事態となりました。脱原発への運動はさらに活発になり、福井から電力を供給してもらってきた都市部でさえも、原子力発電に反対する声が高まりました。40年間にわたる国のエネルギー政策に従い、原子力発電所を受け入れてきた市町が、厳しく非難され、地元の人々は、心を痛めています。



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