The prefectural assembly in Shimane, which hosts a Chugoku Electric Power Co. nuclear power plant, has rejected an ordinance backed by more than 80,000 citizens calling for nuclear power to be phased out in the prefecture.
Critics say it is regrettable that the motion failed to generate extensive discussions among legislators about energy issues. The dominant view expressed by them was that the prefectural government should follow the state in energy issues.
The ordinance was sought by a civic group called the prefectural citizens' liaison committee on the Shimane Nuclear Power Station and energy issues. It called for phasing out nuclear power by increasing renewable energy sources and encouraging energy saving, aiming to attain energy self-sufficiency in the prefecture.
In February, the liaison committee filed a petition with the prefectural assembly to pass the ordinance, presenting the signatures of 83,323 people, or 14 percent of the prefecture's about 580,000 voters.
Shimane Gov. Zembee Mizoguchi told the assembly that the ordinance's energy mix target would be difficult to achieve with prefectural efforts alone, citing the need for state involvement in securing financial resources and technological development.
"We would need roughly as much as 40 times more renewable energy (than we now have) to attain energy self-sufficiency," he said.
At an assembly committee, most members subscribed to the view that energy should be shared across regional boundaries, opposing the phasing out nuclear power outside the framework of national policy.
The ordinance was voted down both at the committee on March 5 and at the plenary session on March 11.
Takehiko Hobo, professor emeritus at Shimane University who serves as head of the liaison committee's secretariat, said the assembly paid scant attention to issues such as the pros and cons of nuclear power and whether or not to restart the nuclear power plant, currently idled for a checkup. The plant in Matsue city is also the only one located in a prefectural capital in Japan.
"It is unfortunate for Shimane Prefecture that both the governor and the assembly cannot present a direction as the top entities of the local government," Hobo said.
Takayuki Ota, associate professor of regional policies at Shizuoka University, said, "We should explore the possibilities of phasing out nuclear power on a regional level as well. We should not stop thinking about it, assuming it is a national policy."