Japan fuels anger with nuclear deal
The Japanese government has gone against widespread public opinion to give the green light to bring nuclear plants back online.
All Japan’s 50 reactors were taken offline for maintenance or safety checks following the Fukushima disaster.
The explosions, meltdowns and massive leaks of radioactive material at the plant last year, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, were the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl and resulted in widespread public opposition to the use of nuclear power. As the government announced its decision, a protest was held outside the prime minister’s offices.
The government’s move paves the way for a power company to immediately begin work to restart two reactors in Ohi town, a process that is expected to take several weeks.
The restart is being closely watched as an indicator of how aggressively the government will act to approve operations at other reactors. It has been pushing hard to bring some reactors online as soon as possible to avert power shortages as demand increases during the summer months.
“Safety is our main concern,” said trade and industry minister Yukio Edano. He added that if there are safety problems, the process could be delayed.
Kansai Electric Power Co officials say bringing the two reactors online is needed to help avert a power crunch in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest metropolis, and other areas in the west. The sudden shutdown of nuclear plants has hit Japan’s economy hard.
To offset the shortfall, utilities have ramped up oil-based and gas-based generation and that contributed to the country’s biggest annual trade deficit ever.