Saturday, June 16, 2012

Japan Restarts Two Reactors

Yoshihiko Noda
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday ordered the the Kansai Electric Power Company to restart Ohi nuclear reactors 3 and 4.  A majority in the area argued that earthquake-prone Japan should back away from nuclear power because of safety concerns. The restart at Ohi could open the door for reactors to come back online elsewhere in the country, and Noda has said that the government will make judgments “on individual cases,” based on safety.  In the 15 months since the Fukushima disaster — an earthquake- and tsunami-triggered triple meltdown that forced the evacuation of some 100,000 — Japan has already managed to first abandon nuclear power and then re-embrace it.  Accordign to Noda:
“We are determined to make further efforts to restore people’s trust in nuclear policy and safety regulations.” 

As Japan’s 50 working reactors were shuttered because of either safety concerns or routine maintenance checks, officials in host communities formed a stiff resistance against any restart orders. Many charged that Tokyo had done too little to reform its discredited nuclear regulatory system or break up the traditional cozy ties between government and utility companies.  In early May, a final nuclear reactor on the northern island of Hokkaido came offline, and Japan, briefly, was nuclear free.

Though Japan is not required by law to have local approval for nuclear restarts, such consent has long been a de facto prerequisite. Public opposition remains massive. Specifically at Ohi, 71 percent said they were against a “hasty” restart at the plant, according to a survey conducted by the Mainichi newspaper earlier this month. Friday night, several thousand protested outside the prime minister’s office, yelling, “We oppose the restart!” (Wash Post, 6/16/202)

No comments: