With their reactors largely idled, Japan’s nuclear companies, a collection of regional monopolies, have seen their values drop by as much as 50 percent. Some have been forced to fire up old thermal plants, raising the possibility of higher electricity bills. Anti-nuclear groups in Osaka have gathered tens of thousands of signatures, raising the possibility of a referendum on atomic power.
The popular anti-nuclear mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, elected in November, wants to break up Kepco’s regional monopoly; his city is the firm’s largest shareholder, and Hashimoto is trying to rally support from other shareholders to pressure the company out of the nuclear power business.
Meanwhile, power company officials are racing to reassure Japanese that plants are safe and necessary. In recent weeks, officials from the Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kepco), Japan’s largest nuclear operator, have gone door to door in towns that host its nuclear plants, conducting polls and answering questions.
While trying to save public face, it doesn’t appear that the proponents of nuclear energy in Japan have any real intention to change way the industry operates. KEPCO was embarrassed and scorned by the press last week, after a nuclear safety agency meeting to discuss a restart at two Kansai reactors — Units 3 and 4 at the Ohi plant — was delayed for more than 31 / 2 hours because government and utility officials did not want to open the meetings to the public.
This led to a large public outcry, and a few of the officials agreed that the meeting should be open to the public, the press were eager to report the story which only put more of a spotlight on the nuclear crisis in Japan. However once the meeting got underway, business resumed as normal and the agency approved stress tests, a key step in the government’s authorization to restart the reactors.
Source: Washington Post