In-Focus: Ohi Restarts – Noda faces fallout from DPJ lawmakers – Nuclear energy to have smaller role in Japan

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Residents upset over potential Ohi restart

More than a week after announcement of the intent to restart of two nuclear reactors in Japan , the decision is still causing controversy among area residents who want to know why the local leaders were being blamed for the economic damage that would result if the Ohi reactors were not restarted.

Over the past few months, intense lobbying of political leaders by Kansai Electric Power Co. and threats by major corporate supporters to relocate outside the region were cited by the Union of Kansai Governments as reasons for caving in.

Citing central government progress in creating a new nuclear regulatory agency and deregulating energy supplies, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto admitted defeat but said he had done all he could as mayor.

“The pressure from Kansai’s corporate leaders to restart the reactors was really strong,” said Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who had been one of the staunchest opponents of the restart.

“Kepco put a lot of pressure on companies in the Kansai region, telling them that without the Oi reactors, they would face rolling blackouts. Those firms, in turn, pressured Kansai-area politicians, saying that if there were blackouts they would have to relocate outside the Kansai region,” said Shigeaki Koga, a senior member of a committee appointed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to look into the city’s energy strategy.

Source: The Japan Times

Prime Minister Noda faces political fallout over restart push

More than 30 percent of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan have expressed opposition to the central governments push to restart two nuclear reactors.

A letter of opposition signed by 117 DPJ members, including former party leaders Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, was submitted to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday, urging him to exercise “greater caution”.

“Most of the public are of the opinion that we should overcome this summer’s energy needs through conservation and flexibility,” the petition said, adding that the party remains split on the issue.

Source: The Japan Times

Source: Wall Street Journal

New nuclear regulator in Japan legally guaranteed independence

The Japanese government has been working for months to create a new organization to oversee the safety of the nation’s nuclear reactors.

Pressure to create a new nuclear regulatory body is particularly strong now because the government is nearing a decision to restart two reactors to cope with looming power shortages this summer.

The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito have proposed creating a five-member commission with legally guaranteed independence in personnel appointments and budgetary matters, giving the body a status akin to the antimonopoly watchdog, the Fair Trade Commission.

Source: Japan Times

Nuclear energy in Japan to have smaller role in future

It’s official: nuclear power will have a much smaller role in Japan’s energy future than was once thought.  Given the opposition to nuclear energy in Japan, Tetsunari Iida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo, says anyone with sense would forget nuclear power.

“Advocates of nuclear have no idea of reality check. They just keep repeating, ‘we can do it’,” says Iida, who advises Hashimoto on energy.

Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice-chairman of the cabinet-level Japan Atomic Energy Commission, admits that it will be “very difficult” to sell the country on nuclear energy again.

He says the government must first prove that Fukushima is safe and that contamination from the disaster poses no threat, and then put in place new regulatory bodies.

The government has decided to replace the industry ministry’s tainted Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which has been criticized as too close to industry, with an independent nuclear regulator. “Trust has been damaged. We have to rebuild it,” says Suzuki.

Source: Nature

International solar power firms see Fukushima disaster as game-changer

Solar power firms are betting that the nuclear crisis in Japan will become a game-changer for renewable energy in the world’s third largest economy, with new foreign entrants such as Canadian Solar looking to go toe-to-toe there with some of the biggest utilities in Asia.

Source: Financial Post

Solar power plant to be built in Fukushima

A major Japanese real estate company has announced plans to build a large-scale solar power plant in an area hit by last year’s disaster and nuclear accident.

Mori Trust plans to invest more than 50 million dollars to build the “Mega Solar” power station on a golf course in Izumizaki Village, southern Fukushima Prefecture.

The company says it hopes to begin building in October and start supplying electricity by the summer of 2013. It says it aims to expand the plant, eventually generating up to 10 megawatts of electricity — enough to meet the demands of 3,000 households.

The realtor says it plans to sell its electricity to the regional Tohoku Electric power company, taking advantage of new legislation that requires major power firms to buy locally-generated renewable energy. The law comes into effect next month.

Source: NHK

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