Editer l'article Suivre ce blog Administration + Créer mon blog
Le blog de fukushima-is-still-news

information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Doubts about safety

April 14, 2013

Doubts linger over safety, necessity of nuclear reactors as gov't eyes quick restart



Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other top government officials decided on April 13 that it is "appropriate" to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture. Yet doubts still linger over the factors their decision was based on, namely the "safety" of the reactors and the "need" for nuclear power in terms of power supply and demand.

The government, which is hurrying to restart the reactors, has decided to send Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano to Fukui Prefecture to call for cooperation, but it remains to be seen whether the government can present a convincing case to parties including local bodies in surrounding areas that have become increasingly critical of its "hasty decision."

For the Noda administration, the prospect of having no nuclear reactors in operation has created a sense of desperation. This is reflected in the fast progression to its decision on April 13 to restart the reactors at the Oi plant from an initial meeting on April 3.

Now, just one of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors is in operation -- the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant in Hokkaido. This reactor is due to be shut down for regular inspections on May 5, which would leave Japan without a single reactor in operation. According to one official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), this would raise the hurdle for restarting nuclear reactors even higher.

Meanwhile, some officials have raised fears about the hollowing out of Japan's manufacturing industry. So far power shortages have been made up through thermal power generation, but it is feared that if concerns about increased electricity charges resulting from surging fuel prices become entrenched, then Japanese businesses -- primarily those in the manufacturing sector -- could move overseas. At the same time, Iran has hinted that it could close the Strait of Hormuz -- strategically important in the transportation of oil -- sparking concerns of rising worldwide oil prices.

It is feared that if the government continues to put off decisions about restarting nuclear reactors, then it could affect the selection of a chairman at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Officials close to the prime minister have commented that unless the government clearly states that reactors which can be restarted will be restarted, then nobody will come forward to fill the role of chairman at TEPCO.

But even if the government manages to restart the Oi plant's reactors, it plans to decide on the safety and necessity of other nuclear power generation facilities individually. In a news conference on April 13, Edano commented, "Each time, we will make a decision based on safety and necessity," stressing that restarting the Oi reactors would not automatically open the gates for reactors at other plants to be restarted. Niigata Prefecture, host to TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, for example, faces a gubernatorial election this autumn, and one government official commented that it is no time to restart the nuclear reactors there.

On April 14, the government was to send Edano to meet with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa and Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka, and seek assistance in restarting the Oi plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors. But it is eying a different approach with other local bodies in surrounding areas, instead planning to dispatch members of METI's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada and Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who have expressed reservations about restarting the reactors in Fukui Prefecture, which neighbors their prefectures, have voiced disapproval over this treatment. Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka -- a shareholder in Kansai Electric -- has also boosted his opposition to restarting nuclear reactors, and if the government goes ahead and starts reactors with only the consent of local bodies in the areas where those reactors are located, then it is likely to face stronger public criticism.

It is not only the safety but the necessity of reactors that the government has focused on in its move toward restarting the Oi nuclear reactors. But since Kansai Electric Power Co. was able to avert power shortages last summer and winter by asking people to conserve electricity, the view among consumers is that if effective supply and demand measures are adopted, then there will be no shortage of power. (By Naoki Oita, Political News Department)

Partager cet article
Pour être informé des derniers articles, inscrivez vous :
Commenter cet article