★[Wikikleaks] TOMARI: JAPAN’S NORTHERNMOST NUCLEAR COMMUNITY

5月 12, 2011

Viewing cable 09SAPPORO30, TOMARI: JAPAN’S NORTHERNMOST NUCLEAR COMMUNITY

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SAPPORO30 2009-07-29 10:26 2011-05-07 05:00 UNCLASSIFIED Consulate Sapporo

P 291026Z JUL 09
FM AMCONSUL SAPPORO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0487
INFO DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY
AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY
AMCONSUL NAGOYA PRIORITY
AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY
AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY
AMCONSUL SAPPORO

UNCLAS SAPPORO 000030

DEPT FOR EAP/J, EEB/ESC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: JA ENRG ECON PGOV TRGY
SUBJECT: TOMARI: JAPAN’S NORTHERNMOST NUCLEAR COMMUNITY

¶1. (U) SUMMARY. Sapporo Conoffs recently visited the town of
Tomari, home to Hokkaido’s only nuclear power facility. As a new
nuclear reactor there that will be capable of burning mixed
plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel prepares to come online, the
community continues to benefit from subsidies and special
attention from the Government of Japan and the Hokkaido Electric
Power Company. With aversion to nuclear power facilities at new
sites a concern, Japanese planners instead look towards
communities like Tomari with existing nuclear facilities for
opportunities to build advanced reactors. Such communities tend
to be more willing to accept financial incentives for new
reactors, especially as subsidy levels on existing reactors
decline. END SUMMARY.

NUCLEAR POLITICS IN ACTION IN HOKKAIDO
—————————————

¶2. (U) Nuclear power is a central part of the Government of
Japan (GOJ)’s strategy for meeting Japan’s growing energy needs
while simultaneously reducing carbon dioxide emissions. A
network of 53 conventional nuclear reactors currently supplies
30 percent of Japan’s energy needs. Over the next few years, the
GOJ plans to introduce plutonium-thermal power generation at new
and existing reactors whereby mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel
(MOX) will be burned for power generation. The use of MOX,
which is made from reprocessed spent fuel, is a step towards a
closed nuclear energy cycle since Japan will be able to recycle
some nuclear waste material when producing MOX.

¶3. (U) In June 2009, Conoffs traveled two hours west of Sapporo
to visit Hokkaido Electric Power Company’s (HEPCO) Tomari
nuclear power plant, one of up to 18 facilities nationwide
designated by the GOJ for the future use of MOX fuel to
generate electric power. Located in the coastal town of Tomari,
the facility is the only nuclear power plant on Japan’s northern
island of Hokkaido. Reactors No.1 and 2 there have been
operational for two decades. HEPCO’s Reactor No. 3, expected to
come online in December 2009, is scheduled to begin burning MOX
fuel in 2012. When the third reactor becomes fully operational,
the three reactors combined will be able to supply about
one-third of Hokkaido’s total energy needs. (Note: By
comparison, 11 coal/ oil burning plants and 53 hydroelectric
plants respectively produce 67 percent and 12 percent of
Hokkaido’s current energy. End note.)

¶4. (U) While in Tomari, Conoffs met separately with Mayor
Hiroomi Makino as well as HEPCO officials based at the Tomari
nuclear plant. Plant officials also provided Conoffs with a tour
of the plant’s public relations center as well as a visit to all
three reactors that featured explanations of the control rooms,
the No. 3 Reactor’s spent fuel pool, and the No. 2 and No. 3
turbine casings. The visit provided a useful snapshot of life
in a Japanese community willing to accept the existence of a
nuclear power plant in its midst.

HOSTING A NUCLEAR PLANT PAYS OFF FOR LOCALS
——————————————–

¶5. (U) HEPCO’s decision to construct a nuclear facility (and its
actual 1989 completion) presented Tomari with an opportunity for
economic revival. The town had been devastated after the 1964
closing of the local Kayanuma coal mine, which caused its
population to drop from 10,000 to just 2,000 today. Fishing,
Tomari’s other major industry, was unable to sustain the town as
overfishing and gradually warmer ocean waters led to smaller
catches of salmon and mackerel. Without other economic options,
Tomari agreed in 1968 to accept HEPCO’s offer to construct a
nuclear power plant.

¶6. (U) This decision led to a windfall in nuclear power
plant-related subsidies for Tomari. According to Mayor Makino,
Tomari has no need for the standard GOJ subsidies that other
towns in Hokkaido receive thanks to special subsidies gained by
hosting three nuclear reactors as well as additional property
taxes paid by HEPCO. The town boasts an annual budget of at
least three billion yen ($42 million USD), an amount unheard of
in other similar-sized Hokkaido towns. This large inflow of
funds has spurred the development of numerous amenities and
benefits for Tomari’s residents. These include free high speed
internet access, free local cable television information access,
a city-run digital television broadcasting antenna, and minimal
rental fees at newly renovated community facilities, as well as
cash payouts for significant personal life events such as
marriage, births, home construction, and advanced age markers
(turning 75, 90, 95, and 100).

¶7. (U) Tomari also has a state-of-the-art health clinic for its
2,000 residents that utilizes advanced medical equipment
including CT scanning, X-rays, MRIs, and long-distance imaging
consultation with medical experts in Sapporo. Mayor Makino
proudly explained that his town’s clinic is able to offer free
health care to seniors at the age of 65, 10 years earlier than
other Japanese communities. Residents needing more advanced
care, however, are bused from Tomari to the nearest hospital 20
kilometers away in the town of Iwanai.

KEEPING THE PLANT SECURE —
—————————

¶8. (U) Despite the wealth that it brings to the community, the
Tomari nuclear facility itself is hidden on the outskirts of
town behind the base of a steep cliff on the Sea of Japan coast.
To enter the nuclear plant’s actual facility, visitors must
travel downhill and progress through a number of gates and
checkpoints. The newly-built third reactor has additional
checkpoints. HEPCO plant officials explained that security has
increased following the September 11th terrorist attacks and a
series of small arson fires that occurred during construction of
Reactor No. 3.

¶9. (U) The buildings housing the reactors themselves appeared to
be modern and clean. Plant officials stated they were originally
built to withstand seismic activity but have also been upgraded
to apply building code changes introduced at nuclear plants
across Japan after the 2007 Niigata earthquake. Reactors No. 1
and No.2 share a combined control room with equipment
approximately twenty years old while Reactor No. 3’s control
room houses the latest digital monitoring equipment available.
Approximately 400 total employees work at the Tomari nuclear
plant.

— WHILE ALLEVIATING LOCAL SAFETY CONCERNS
—————————————-

¶10. (U) HEPCO has invested heavily in efforts to convince Tomari
residents as well as the rest of Hokkaido’s population that
their nuclear facility is safe. A multi-million dollar public
relations center built outside of the nuclear facility complex
greets visitors passing through town on a stretch of highway
built in part with HEPCO funds. The center offers
family-oriented, interactive multimedia displays designed to
teach visitors about both the safety of nuclear power in general
and the Tomari nuclear plant specifically. The center’s indoor
swimming pool as well as its archeological exhibits of Jomon-era
pottery excavated at the plant construction sites and
climate-controlled, living ecosystem displays also attempt to
offer recreational and expanded educational opportunities to
local residents.

¶11. (U) Furthermore, HEPCO invites two separate committees to
conduct regular safety inspections of the HEPCO Tomari facility.
One committee, comprised of residents with no nuclear expertise
from Tomari and other nearby towns, conducts general visits to
the plant to provide local residents with visual confirmation
that there are no problems at the nuclear facility. A second
committee comprised of nuclear energy specialists travels from
Sapporo to Tomari regularly to conduct scientifically-based
safety inspections. The results of both committee inspections
are made available to the Tomari Town Hall. HEPCO also conducts
its own periodic inspections and shares the results with Tomari,
the Hokkaido Prefectural Government and the Government of Japan.

¶12. (U) HEPCO employees hold regular emergency response drills
at the Tomari nuclear facility. HEPCO also monitors readings
from radiation detectors installed throughout the area. The
Hokkaido prefectural government maintains a separate monitoring
and response station across the street from the HEPCO public
relations’ center. In the event of a nuclear incident, an area
encompassing a ten kilometer radius around the Tomari nuclear
plant would be the focal point for disaster response teams.
Tomari’s mayor and HEPCO officials both told Conoffs that
neither Tomari’s health clinic nor the nearby Iwanai hospital
are equipped to handle radiation poisoning or other
radiation-related afflictions. In an emergency, victims would be
airlifted by helicopter or driven two hours to hospitals in
Sapporo.

COMMENT
——–
¶13. (U) The financial benefits and special attention garnished
on the town of Tomari stand as testament to the lengths that the
GOJ and Japanese energy companies will go to convince rural
communities to accept the construction of nuclear power plants.
The acceptance of a third reactor by Tomari citizens may also
reflect the future of nuclear power plant construction in Japan.
As not-in-my-backyard sentiments continue to discourage nuclear
power plant construction at new sites, Japanese planners look
towards existing nuclear facilities for opportunities to build
new reactors. Communities like Tomari addicted to nuclear
subsidies are more eager to accept new reactors for financial
gain, especially as subsidy levels on existing reactors decline.
This cable was cleared by Embassy Tokyo.

WELTON

広告