Japanese Governors push back against central Government and call for independent panel oversight into Ohi restart

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The governors of Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture on a tour of the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant

The governors of Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures, Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada and Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada on Tuesday announced a joint seven-point proposal on nuclear policy that calls on the central government to draw up a road map for reducing the country’s dependence on nuclear power that includes plans for decommissioning aging nuclear reactors.

The proposal, made to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and industry minister Yukio Edano, also calls for establishing an independent panel to estimate this summer’s supply and demand figures for electricity.

Edano had been widely quoted by the international press when he said that the KEPCO areas expected to face a power shortage of around 20 percent during peak hours in August if no reactors are restarted.

The government’s earlier power shortage forecast was later found to be flawed as it was based on Japan’s hottest summer in at least 113 years and ignored power savings and private electricity generation capacity, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada said.

“Is it really the case we’re facing such a severe shortage? The utilization rate of water pump electric generators is only about 20 percent and the rate for coal-burning plants is only 40 percent and can be raised,” Shiga Gov. Kada stated.

A recent study by Kyoto News found that if the summer heat waves were comparable to those seen last year in 2011, the shortfalls or blackouts would only occur on 1 out of the 365 days of the year.

The governors’ proposal argues that the national government’s explanations are insufficient about its decision to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Ohi nuclear power station.

In their report, the governors added that to ensure nuclear reactors’ safety, experts’ judgment that involves a neutral organization is indispensable, not a political view, Kyodo News reported.

In a survey by Greenpeace Japan of 3,000 people living in the neighboring prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Shiga, 75.6 percent of the respondents said the government’s decision to allow reactor restarts is too hasty.

About 82 percent said the central and local governments’ measures to deal with a nuclear disaster are inadequate, the environmental group said April 11, citing the poll results.

It hasn’t helped that officials from Japan’s Central Government have constantly flip-flopped over the restart process.

On April 2nd, Industry Minister Yukio Edano said that given the wide areas affected by the Fukushima disaster, the government would need to seek approval for Ohi in Fukui and neighboring Shiga and Kyoto prefectures.

But less than two weeks later on April 15th, Edano was quoted as saying that he didn’t need local approval to restart two reactors at the Ohi plant. With Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and two other Cabinet officials he said the government could approve operation of the plant.

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