After the explosion at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant back in 2011, the subject of nuclear power has become a very delicate and complicated issue for the Japanese. While there is an element of danger associated with the creation of nuclear energy, many towns have also benefited from the large sums of compensation, known as “nuclear money”, that have gone into creating jobs and strengthening the prosperity of areas that have agreed to home such power plants.

Despite pressure from surrounding groups and the mainland, a small island off the coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture has for years refused to have anything to do with nuclear money, and has firmly opposed plans to build nuclear power stations in the area. But all that may be about to change.

Iwai island is a Japanese island that lies out to sea opposite the site where Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant is expected to be built in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, and home to around 500 people. What makes this island markedly different from mainland Yamaguchi Prefecture is the determination with which the islanders have fought off “nuclear money” for over 31 years in attempt to preserve a safe, clean environment. While the prefecture’s local government has been accepting nuclear money for many years and pushing for the completion of Kaminoseki power plant, a staggering 90 percent of Iwai islanders are against plans for the power plant being built so close to where they live.

Being a small island, the locals rely on the island’s fishing industry to keep its economy alive. Even so, of the eight fishermen’s cooperative groups within Yamaguchi Prefecture, Iwai island is the only union that continues to refuse aid from the nuclear power industry.

Mr. Shimizu who organizes the committee for Iwai islanders against the construction of Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant, made the comment:

“Yamaguchi Prefecture fishermen’s cooperative is putting pressure on the island to accept nuclear money by means of threats and lies. They came to the island and pushed through the decision for us to accept the money even though we are strongly against the idea. If something goes wrong, you can’t buy a clean sea with nuclear money.”

Reacting against the prefecture’s overbearing behavior, 31 of the 53 group members on the island signed a petition against the acceptance of the money. However, Yamaguchi Prefecture’s fishermen’s union is believed to have ignored this completely and has even started to consider how the compensation money will be distributed among local fishermen.

The reason why Yamaguchi Prefecture is so fervently pressing the island to accept the money seems to have to do with the construction on the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant coming to a halt after the accident in Fukushima back in 2011. The prefecture has up until now relied on nuclear money to build its onsens (hot-springs) and public facilities, but last year there was a marked drop in funds. There are fears that if the construction doesn’t restart soon, the figure will drop even further and the prefecture won’t be able to keep its public facilities going. By having all eight fishermen’s cooperatives agreeing to the construction, the prefectural members of the cooperative believe that it will act as a plea to the government to restart construction on the power plant. This will then, in turn, secure a steady supply of nuclear money into Yamaguchi Prefecture.

However, as Mr. Shimizu warned, “Accepting the money is as good as giving up on everything that we’ve fought for all these years. I can’t allow something to happen that will go against so many people’s wishes. I’ll continue to fight to the end.”

How the situation will develop remains unclear but it is definitely a subject that deserves much careful deliberation. On the one hand, it’s not difficult to see how the inhabitants of Yamaguchi Prefecture who have relied on nuclear power to keep their towns alive wish to protect themselves from foreseeable financial slumps. But on the other hand, it is unfair to push the islanders against their will into something they have strived so hard all these years to steer well clear of. We hope to bring you more on this story as it unfolds.

Source: Nikan Spa via Yahoo! Japan