16 Avril 2012
All the nation's nuclear reactors will be shut down "momentarily from May 6 onward," Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano has said, once Hokkaido Electric Power Co. halts operations at the No. 3 reactor of its Tomari nuclear power plant on May 5 for regular inspections.
Edano's statement was the first time a government official has said all the nation's nuclear reactors will be shut down. The No. 3 reactor at Tomari is the only one now in operation.
Edano made the comment during a lecture at a hotel in Tokushima on Sunday, reflecting the government's view it will be difficult to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture before the Tomari No. 3 reactor is halted.
The Oi reactors also have been shut down for inspections.
Edano on Saturday sought the Fukui prefectural and Oi municipal governments' approval to restart the Oi reactors, but his remarks Sunday reflected the government's view that reactivation will likely take some time.
During a meeting of related Cabinet ministers Friday, the government confirmed the safety of the Oi reactors and concluded they need to be restarted given possible electric demand this summer in the service area covered by KEPCO.
On Sunday, Edano said, "I believe it's understood that many people will experience significant difficulties if no reactors are in operation this summer."
The government is expected to continue seeking approval to restart the Oi reactors, so as to ensure a sufficient energy supply in summer.
Regarding the nation's energy policy, Edano stressed the government will end its dependence on nuclear power generation as early as possible.
"We have to work to permanently break away from our dependence on nuclear power generation as soon as possible," Edano said.
Yoshito Sengoku, acting chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan's Policy Research Committee, accompanied Edano to the Tokushima lecture.
"We have to think of how and when we can realize denuclearization. We cannot live in pitch darkness until it is realized," Sengoku said.
Of the 54 commercial nuclear reactors in the nation, the Tomari No. 3 reactor is the only one still operating mainly because reactors that were halted for regular checkups have not been restarted since the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.