KAGOSHIMA--Kagoshima’s governor-elect said he will ask Kyushu Electric Power Co. as early as August to suspend operations at its Sendai nuclear plant for a safety review following the recent earthquakes in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture.

“The people of Kagoshima Prefecture have been anxious (about the safety of the plant) since the earthquakes that occurred in Kumamoto Prefecture,” Satoshi Mitazono said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on July 19.

He takes office July 28.

Mitazono, 58, a former journalist with TV Asahi Corp., said the plant needs to undergo a new safety inspection, including a study on how, if any, the mid-April temblors in Kumamoto Prefecture have affected the Sendai plant.

“Kyushu Electric would be able to bolster trust from the public if it addressed the public’s anxiety by conducting fresh inspections,” he said.

Utilities and the central government are wary of a request for suspension since an unscheduled shutdown of a nuclear plant would be unusual and could affect the operations of other nuclear facilities.

Mitazono was elected in the July 10 Kagoshima gubernatorial election on a pledge to suspend the operations of the Sendai plant for additional checks.

A governor does not have the legal authority to order a halt. But under an agreement with Kyushu Electric, the prefectural government can enter the plant and call on the utility to take safety precautions based on its findings during an on-site inspection.

Mitazono said the review will also involve a study of the status of active faults in the surrounding area of the nuclear plant.

The Sendai plant is the lone nuclear power station currently operating in Japan. It is situated to the south of geological faults that slipped in Kumamoto Prefecture in April and unleashed a series of powerful earthquakes, with the main temblor registering a magnitude 7.3 on April 16.

Concerns have since intensified about the safety of the Sendai plant.

However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said the plant does not need to shut down, saying that it is designed with enough of a safety cushion.

In line with his campaign promises, Mitazono said he will also establish a panel of experts to reassess whether the current evacuation plan is adequate in the event of a serious nuclear accident.

In one concern, experts have pointed out that many of the bridges on the planned evacuation routes lack adequate resistance to earthquakes.

“We would have a problem as to whether we would be able to evacuate smoothly under the current plan,” Mitazono said.

An additional issue with the prefecture’s evacuation plan is that medical institutions and other facilities only within a 10-kilometer radius of the plant have been asked to develop escape measures.

Yuichiro Ito, the outgoing governor, made the decision despite the standard 30-km radius set by the central government.

Mitazono said Ito’s decision should also be reviewed.