Ex-Japanese mayors urge Taiwan to expand nuclear evacuation zones

Visiting former Japanese mayors urged the Taiwanese government Thursday to expand the area protective actions would be taken to reduce the external exposure to radiation from a nuclear power plant.

Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, said the Japanese government expanded its Planned Evacuation Zones from 8 kilometers from the crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant to 30 km after the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

"I'm surprised to learn the distance of the Planned Evacuation Zones in Taiwan is 8 km after the Fukushima incident," he said. "I think it should be at least 250 km."

Idogawa was helping people evacuate when Unit 1 of the Daiichi nuclear plant exploded on March 12, 2011. When debris fell from the sky and covered him and people around him, he said he thought it was the end.

"The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. lied to all of us that everything was fine and nothing would happen to the plant," he said. "A nuclear power plant...cannot operate without lies."

Idogawa is one of three former Japanese local chiefs invited by a Taiwanese antinuclear group to speak at Thursday's press conference ahead of the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

They are all members of Mayors for a Nuclear Power Free Japan, a network of serving and retired mayors opposed to nuclear power.

Tatsuya Murakami, former mayor of Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture, said while more than 6 million people live within a 30-km radius of two nuclear power plants in northern Taiwan, he is surprised to see the island build a third one.

"I'm curious how the Taiwanese people and the Taiwanese government see the Fukushima nuclear incident," he said.

He described as "crazy" the fact Japan has around 50 nuclear power plants, adding the Japanese are "too proud" to think that nuclear disasters such as Three Mile Island or Chernobyl would not happen again in Japan.

Ibaraki Prefecture is home to multiple atomic energy facilities including a nuclear fuel processing plant where a deadly radiation accident occurred in 1999.

Murakami, who stepped down as mayor last year, said the 1999 accident made him realize no nuclear power is safe and accidents are bound to happen.

Hiroko Uehara, former mayor of Kunitachi City in Tokyo, called on Taiwanese politicians, especially those running for the top position in the capital Taipei in the November elections, to exhaust all means, including legal actions, to protect lives of their constituents.

"City mayor is like the captain of a boat. The job is to protect the life of the people on board," she said. "The yearend election is a great opportunity to elect the right person to take the helm of the capital city. Please don't let our sacrifice go in vain."