By Kentaro Hamada
NIIGATA, Japan, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture reiterated his opposition to the restart of Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, adding it may take a few years to review the pre-conditions for restart.
During a meeting on Thursday with Tepco Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October on his anti-nuclear platform, repeated his pledge to keep the plant shut unless a fuller explanation of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was provided.
He also said that evacuation plans for people in Niigata in case of a nuclear accident and the health impacts that the Fukushima accident have had would need to be reviewed before discussing the nuclear plant’s restart.
The restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s largest, is key to helping Tepco rebound from the aftermath of the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima-Daiichi plant.
The Japanese government last month nearly doubled its projections for costs related to the disaster to 21.5 trillion yen ($185 billion), increasing the pressure on Tepco to step up reform and improve its performance.
Many of Japan’s reactors are still going through a relicensing process by a new regulator set up after the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
Shutting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for additional years would mean that the company would have to continue relying heavily on fossil fuel-fired power generation such as natural gas.
Governors do not have the legal authority to prevent restarts but their agreement is usually required before a plant can resume operations.
Three reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant melted down after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that devastated a swathe of Japan’s northeastern coastline and killed more than 15,000 people. ($1 = 116.3600 yen) (Reporting by Kentaro Hamada; additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Chris Gallagher in TOKYO; Editing by Michael Perry and Christian Schmollinger)