Photo/IllutrationThe Oma nuclear plant under construction in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, in 2015. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

HAKODATE, Hokkaido--Donations are pouring in from outside the city here to help the municipal government finance its legal battle against a nuclear power plant project.

The city has received a morale-boosting 6.3 million yen ($56,000) in donations in little over a month since April for the lawsuit it filed in 2014 over the construction of the Oma plant in Oma, Aomori Prefecture, across the sea.

The donations are being made under the “furusato nozei” (hometown tax) system, which allows people to give a portion of their residential taxes to a local government of their choice.

Those donors are later allowed to have the sum of their contributions deducted from their income and residential taxes. They also receive a gift from the municipality they donated to as a token of gratitude for increasing its local tax revenues.

Hakodate has solicited hometown tax donations under the stated goals of using the money for programs such as city planning and welfare.

To pay its legal fees, Hakodate had previously asked for contributions separately from the furusato nozei system, but it has seen such donations dwindle in recent years. The city government received donations totaling about 920,000 yen for the purpose in fiscal 2016.

In the face of diminishing funds, the city decided to collect donations under the hometown tax for the legal fight as well, starting from the current fiscal year.

The Hakodate government allows donors to choose which program their money should go to.

After it began accepting hometown tax donations on April 3, 384 donations had been made, totaling 10.15 million yen by May 7.

Of this, three-quarters of the donations--287--were for the lawsuit, totaling the 6.3 million yen, or 62 percent of the total; almost seven times the figure the city government received for the court battle during the last fiscal year.

“It represents the strong wishes of people who want to see the suspension of the project to build the Oma nuclear power plant,” said a city official in charge of the lawsuit. “It is highly encouraging.”

The city filed the suit at the Tokyo District Court against the central government and Electric Power Development Co., demanding the suspension of the project to build the Oma nuclear plant to protect its residents.

Part of Hakodate is only 23 kilometers from the plant, requiring the city to develop an evacuation plan for a possible emergency.

City officials, however, argue it is “impossible” to devise a workable evacuation plan, citing the scarcity of emergency routes and a shortage of vehicles to ferry evacuees in the city.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, municipalities within a radius of 30 km of a nuclear facility have been asked by the central government to formulate evacuation plans.