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Hokkaido Mayor Says Accident at Atomic Plant to Trap Residents

A Japanese mayor suing to stop construction of a nuclear plant says residents in his city would be trapped if there was an accident at the atomic station.

Hakodate city on the northernmost island of Hokkaido filed a lawsuit on April 3 to stop construction of the Oma nuclear station in Aomori prefecture, which is across the Tsugaru Strait that separates Hokkaido from the main island of Honshu.

In the case of an accident, the only evacuation route for the region’s 350,000 residents goes through a tunnel that would act as a bottleneck, Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo said at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday.

The plant’s builder, Electric Power Development Co., should halt work at the site until a realistic evacuation route from Hakodate is verified, Kudo said. Part of the city exists within a 30 kilometer (19 mile) radius from the Oma plant that must prepare for emergency evacuations under government rules.

Construction should be stopped until Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority approves safety provisions at the station, which had secured its earlier permits under less stringent rules that preceded the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Kudo said.

“Construction went ahead while the new regulatory standards were not yet in place, which clearly shows it was a foregone conclusion to resume construction and safety was a secondary concern,” Kudo said.

Safety Checks

The plant’s builder, better known as J-Power, has yet to apply for safety checks with the NRA under rules that were finalized in June 2013.

J-Power has said the plant would incorporate safety requirements required by the NRA and based on the latest knowledge in the field. The company would explain the importance of the Oma plant and its safety provisions in court, it said in an April 3 statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Construction of the plant began in 2008, according to J-Power’s website. Building was halted after the Fukushima accident and resumed in October 2012.

The plant is designed to run entirely on mixed oxide fuel, or MOX, which is made from plutonium recovered from spent reactor fuel.

Hakodate’s lawsuit is against J-Power and the national government.

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