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

Power supply situation may sway gov't decision to restart

October 4, 2012


Gov't may judge resumption of reactors to be unnecessary: spokesman



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government may not back the restart of nuclear reactors even if they are judged to be safe by the nation's new regulatory body, depending on the power supply situation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday.

"The problem of power supply and demand will naturally crop up. The government may decide it is unnecessary (to restart reactors)," the top government spokesman said, suggesting the government will exercise its discretion on the reactivation issue that has become highly controversial since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex last year.

Uncertainty has arisen over who is the main actor in making judgments on the issue following a recent revamp of the country's nuclear regulatory framework, with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda saying the new Nuclear Regulation Authority will play "a leading role" but the regulatory body objecting.

During its regular meeting Wednesday, the NRA took up the issue and reached a consensus that its mission is to assess the safety of reactors from a scientific standpoint and not to make judgments on reactivation.

Noting that electricity supply and demand, and economic aspects should be taken into account when rebooting reactors, commission head Shunichi Tanaka said, "Government offices in charge of energy policy as well as plant operators should make the decision on activating reactors and reach a consensus with local people."

Another member of the NRA said clearing the safety assessments carried out by the authority is a "necessary condition" for reactivation but "not a sufficient condition."

The regulatory commission also unveiled at its meeting a rough draft of new guidelines for nuclear disaster mitigation measures, including expanding areas that should make special preparations from the current radius of 10 kilometers from a plant to 30 km.

Under the draft guidelines, to be compiled later this month, the number of prefectures to be designated as such areas will increase to 21 from 15, officials of the authority's secretariat said.

The draft also notes the need to be fully prepared for accidents that result in the massive release of radioactive substances due to hydrogen explosions that may damage reactor containers and the buildings housing the reactors.

Regarding the distribution of iodine tablets to help prevent thyroid cancer among residents living close to nuclear plants, the draft says, "Organizations closer to the residents should issue instructions."

The recommendation is based on the experience of the Fukushima crisis, in which the distribution of iodine tablets was limited due to delayed action by the central government.

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