12 Mars 2012
March 12, 2012
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda pledged Sunday to take a leadership role in gaining local approval to restart nuclear power reactors once the central government decides to do so, to avert potential power shortages around Japan caused by the lost output of atomic plants previously producing a third of the nation's electricity.
At a press conference held on the first anniversary of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Noda also said he will make a formal request for prefectural governments to accept debris generated by the natural disaster that hit northeastern Japan.
The central government "should make every effort" to obtain the support of areas where nuclear plants are located, Noda said.
"I'm aware that I have to take a lead" in asking for cooperation of local governments and residents, he said, while reiterating that "politics will decide" ultimately whether to give the green light to resume the operations of idled reactors nationwide. Of Japan's 54 commercial nuclear reactors, only two are currently online.
The nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11 last year, has made the public wary about the safety of nuclear plants.
But since he took office in September, Noda has expressed his willingness to restart the reactors, warning power shortages otherwise could drag down the country's economy.
Noda also said he will formally urge municipalities to accept debris from areas devastated by the natural disasters, vowing to speed up the disposal, whose progress has been slow due to fears the debris may contain radioactive substances from the related disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The national government "will move one and two steps forward" to dispose of the debris, Noda said, adding that he will also call for the cooperation of private businesses such as cement companies on the issue.
Some local governments have announced their intention to cooperate, but outside the northeastern region, only the Tokyo metropolitan government has actually begun accepting waste.