Japan says it’s ‘safe’ to restart nuclear reactors

2012-04-13 15:05

Tokyo – Japan confirmed it was safe to restart two offline nuclear reactors in the wake of last year’s earthquake and tsunami disaster as the country faces a summer of power shortages.

Only one of Japan’s 54 units – in northernmost Hokkaido – is in operation, but it is scheduled to be shut down for maintenance work in May.

Restarting the two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in western Japan will mean the country is not entirely without nuclear power.

Industry Minister Yukio Edano said today inspectors had “finally confirmed” the safety of the two Oi reactors but the country was still facing a summer of “very severe power shortages”.

The government still needs to gain approval from regional authorities around the plant for the reactors to be restarted amid persistent public distrust over the safety of nuclear power.

Edano said he wanted to be able to restart the reactors after gaining the “understanding” of local people by the end of July.
He added that he was scheduled to visit the Fukui region, where the Oi plant is located, tomorrow.

The decision on the reactors’ safety was made at a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three ministers, including Edano, who have held talks several times in the past week since the government set criteria for restarting reactors.

The Oi plant is operated by Kansai Electric Power, which services Osaka and its surroundings, and is located about 100 kilometres north of the Japan’s second biggest city.

Japan’s nuclear power industry lost public confidence when the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 last year knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, sending three reactors into melt-down.

Tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes and vast swathes of farmland were contaminated in the world’s worst nuclear accident in the quarter century since Chernobyl.

In late March, Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the Fukushima plant, shut down a reactor for scheduled safety checks, leaving all 17 of its reactors offline.

No reactors in Japan shut for mandatory checks since the quake have resumed operation.

The government’s criteria for restarting nuclear reactors included measures to prevent a nuclear accident even if reactors are hit by natural disasters as severe as those that ravaged the Fukushima plant.

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