TOKYO -- The election of a governor who favors shutting down the Sendai nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan raises uncertainty for the nation's only running reactors.
"A nuclear plant whose safety hasn't been confirmed shouldn't be operating," Satoshi Mitazono, a former TV journalist who ran in Kagoshima Prefecture, told reporters Sunday.
Mitazono said he wanted another study to determine whether the facility lies near active faults and said there are "problems" with the current plans for evacuating residents in an emergency.
His victory in Sunday's gubernatorial race is not expected to lead to the plant immediately shutting down, since governors lack the legal authority to make this happen.
But the plant's two reactors are due for regularly scheduled inspections in October and December. Local utility Kyushu Electric Power would have little chance of restarting them after the safety checks if the governor objects. Mitazono's problems with the evacuation plans may introduce time-consuming revisions.
"If the new governor insists on postponing the restarts, that would rule out operating the Sendai reactors," said a senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is responsible for Japanese energy policy.
The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power's Ikata nuclear plant may resume operations as early as this month. Even so, nationwide nuclear energy output would remain far short of the government's fiscal 2030 target of 20-22% of power generation.