Japan Seeks Nuclear Restart Amidst Opposition

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Japan Seeks Nuclear Restart Amidst Opposition

Common Dreams staff

Kansai Electric Power's Ohi nuclear power plant No. 3 and No. 4 reactors are seen in Oi, Fukui, north of Tokyo (Photo: AP/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Grappling with potential summer power outages and popular mistrust for further use of nuclear power in post-disaster Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has announced that Japan will seek to restart two nuclear reactors -- the first step in reviving the nation’s nuclear power industry. The reactors currently rest at the Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi power plant in Fukui.

Prime Minister Noda and trade minister Yukio Edano face popular opposition as Fukushima remains a fresh wound. The ministers will have to seek approval from the Fukui regional officials as well as town's residents.

"Just because politicians say the reactor is safe doesn't mean they have the ability to judge it's safe. And while the Nuclear Safety Commission has spoken of the stress tests, they have never specifically used the word "safe," Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a vocal nuclear critic.

New York NGO Avaaz.org launched a worldwide Internet campaign in English and Japanese to halt the Oi reactors, calling on the international community to oppose the restart. The site has 13 million supporters.

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Japan Times: Oi reactor restarts hinge on assembly, locals: Fukui governor

Fukui Prefecture will determine whether to restart two idled reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi power plant after consulting the prefectural assembly and the town's residents, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa told trade minister Yukio Edano on Saturday [...]

Edano traveled to the prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast to drum up public support for Nishikawa after he, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and two other ministers agreed Friday that reactors 3 and 4 are safe enough to restart and that their reactivation is vital.

During talks at Fukui's prefectural offices, Nishikawa also asked Edano to speak with the city of Osaka and other wary regional governments, such as Kyoto, to discuss the sensitive issue. [...]

Meanwhile, Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, and the mayors of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, have all opposed a quick restart.

Democratic Party of Japan members from Kyoto met with Yamada and Kansai Electric officials late last month, citing public concern over issues ranging from the safety of the reactors to local disaster response plans and urging a go slow approach.

Also Friday, the mayors of several towns in northern Shiga Prefecture that lie within a 30-km radius of the Oi plant indicated they, too, shared Shiga Gov. Kada's concerns about the lack of an adequate disaster response plan in the event of an emergency. [...]

"Just because politicians say the reactor is safe doesn't mean they have the ability to judge it's safe. And while the Nuclear Safety Commission has spoken of the stress tests, they have never specifically used the word "safe," Hashimoto said Saturday morning.

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New York Times: Japan Seeks to Restart Some Nuclear Power Plants

Mr. Noda declared units No. 3 and No. 4 at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant in western Japan to be safe based on the results of computer simulations designed to check the reactors’ tolerance of a large earthquake and tsunami like those last year that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The resulting meltdowns and explosions spewed radiation across a wide area of northeastern Japan and the Pacific Ocean in the worst nuclear accident since the one at Chernobyl a quarter century earlier.

Mr. Noda now faces the tricky task of convincing skeptical local leaders and voters in Fukui prefecture, where the Ohi plant is located, that it is safe to turn the reactors back on. Public concerns about safety after the Fukushima accident have prevented Japan from restarting any of its nuclear reactors as they have been gradually taken offline for legally mandated maintenance checks.

Currently, only one of the nation’s 54 commercial reactors remains in operation, and it is due to be shut down for maintenance in early May. [...]

Mr. Edano said he would travel to Fukui over the weekend to persuade local leaders to accept the restart of the Ohi plant. He will meet with Fukui’s governor and also with the mayor of the town of Ohi, both of whom have called for new safety standards that reflect the lessons of the Fukushima accident.

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