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Japan State-Wide Nuclear Restart on the Horizon

Reactor approval meeting moved to private venue after anti-nuclear protests

Common Dreams staff

Protestors outside Noda's Tokyo home this weekend. The banners read "We strongly oppose restarting of the Oi nuclear plant" (Itsuo Inouye/ AP).

In Japan on Sunday, a local nuclear safety commission effectively approved the restart of two nuclear reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in the Fukui prefecture, a necessary step likely to prompt a stamp of approval by the local government.

The move came after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's national call to reactivate the reactors on Friday, claiming Japan could not do without nuclear energy.

In addition, Noda said that he plans on instituting a state-wide permanent nuclear restart, not just in Oi. He said he planned to start up more of Japan's 50 reactors whenever their safety is confirmed.

About 1,000 protestors gathered in the rain outside Noda's Tokyo home over the weekend, chanting "No to restarting nuclear plants".

Sunday's safety comission approval of the nuclear start-up in Fukui was met by a group of protesters who disrupted the public meeting chanting, "This commission should be for the people," and "Pushing it through is an act of violence."

The safety commission members then postponed the meeting, moving to a private venue wherein the approval took place.

The governor of the Fukui prefecture, where the reactors are located, is expected to give the final approval.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found 70 per cent of Japanese believe the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, up from less than 50 per cent last year.

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Japan Times: Local nuclear safety commission says Oi reactors safe to restart

A local nuclear safety commission on Sunday effectively approved the restart of two idled reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture by endorsing a report prepared by prefectural officials stating that necessary safety measures have been put in place. [...]

The meeting was temporarily disrupted by some members of the public opposed to the restart but the commission later issued its approval, a necessary step before the prefectural governor can accept Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's call to reactivate the reactors.

Noda said Friday it is necessary to reactivate the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi plant to prevent a power crunch this summer in the service area of the plant's operator, Kansai Electric Power Co., in what would be the first restart of idled reactors since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant last year.

The report examined the central government's probe into the causes of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and responses such as safety tests as well as Kansai Electric Power's safety measures.

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Agence France-Presse: Japan PM renews plea for nuclear restart

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday renewed his call for the re-firing of idle nuclear reactors, saying Japan could not do without atomic energy, but stopped short of ordering a restart.

Noda called on local authorities to allow operations to resume at the Oi nuclear plant in western Japan and pledged safety would remain a priority.

"Units number 3 and 4 should restart to support people's lives, that's my decision," Noda told a news conference. "Therefore I want to seek the understanding of local governments."

"Nuclear generation is an important power source (and) energy security is one of the country's most important issues."

Japan's political classes have been tip-toeing around the unpopular issue of reactor restarts for months, wary of public distrust of the technology since the meltdowns at Fukushima in the aftermath of last year's tsunami.

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