Japanese government ready to move past public concern after decision to restart idled nuclear reactors

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Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster last year, the Japanese people were complacent about nuclear power. Friday night, over 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside Noda’s office on Friday night in last-ditch attempt to derail the restart. Anti-nuclear campaigners accused the prime minister of rushing into a decision and ignoring lingering concerns over safety.

The next day, the Japanese government decided to restart two idled reactors, amid the increased public concern over the safety of nuclear power.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said “We are determined to make further efforts to restore people’s trust in nuclear policy and safety regulations.”, and reiterated that the restart was necessary to prevent serious power shortages this summer and protect people’s daily lives.

“Does this reflect the sentiment of the citizens, who are seeking an exit from nuclear power?” the daily Tokyo Shimbun asked in an editorial Friday.

No in fact, it stands in direct opposition.  Seventy-one percent of respondents to a Mainichi newspaper poll published on June 4 objected to a speedy restart of the Oi reactors.

A poll published last week by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed 70% of Japanese surveyed wanted nuclear power reduced or eliminated.

The reactors will not even be at full power until most of the summer is over.  They take 6 weeks to reach full power and are expected to restart within a week.

For over a year Japan has been able to produce enough electricity to fend of blackouts resulting from closing the nation’s nuclear reactors, despite repeated claims from the media that they were inevitable.  Saving electricity has become a sort of national religion.

Japan can again avoid blackouts this summer as they did last summer, without nuclear power.  The government officials are intimidated, without rolling blackouts the public is beginning to realize it may be able to cease its addiction to nuclear energy, something which had before had been esteemed an impossible dream.

Noda’s “under intense political pressure from the banks and the utilities” who want reactors restarted, said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University who focuses on energy policy. “They want to get those income streams back in operation.”

At Saturday’s press conference, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano acknowledged that “We understand that we have not obtained all of the nation’s understanding,” and also admitted the current nuclear regulatory system has not been working. “It’s difficult to seek cooperation from the NSC,” he said.

A group of Japanese local leaders is protesting the government’s decision to restart a nuclear power plant. The group of 73 serving and retired mayors held a news conference on Sunday to protest the plan to put the Ohi plant back online.  The group plans to submit a letter of protest to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday.

The Secretary General of the group, Kimiko Uehara, read out a statement accusing the government of sidestepping efforts to ensure nuclear safety. The statement also criticized the decision to restart the Ohi plant under makeshift safety standards and before setting up a new nuclear watchdog.

The mayor of Tokai Village in Ibaraki Prefecture, Tatsuya Murakami, said the government had decided on the restart despite insufficient safety tests and with only the consent of the host communities.  He expressed disappointment and anger at the decision, saying he had renewed his resolve to have the nuclear plant in his village scrapped.

Japanese news reports claim the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear plant is seen as a key candidate reactor to be restarted next.  Ehime Governor Tokihiro Nakamura has already begun stressing the importance of restarting the No. 3 reactor of the Ikata station.

In the meantime, more possible debris from the tsunami has washed up on the Washington state coast.

Source: NHK 

Source: The JiJi Press 

Source: NHK 

Source: The JiJi Press 

Source: The Yomiuri 

Source: Business Week 

Source: LA Times

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