Genkai mayor OKs restart of reactors

Kyodo

Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto gave Kyushu Electric Power Co. Monday permission to restart two suspended reactors at a nuclear power plant being hosted by his city in Saga Prefecture.

The mayor’s decision, conveyed in a meeting with Kyushu Electric President Toshio Manabe, makes Genkai the first municipality to approve a reactor restart after inspections since the March 11 disasters triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Attention is now focused on whether Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa will also agree. Furukawa said his decision on the Genkai nuclear power plant would come in mid-July.

The approval of municipalities is not legally required to restart the reactors, but Kyushu Electric nevertheless sought Genkai’s assent as part of social protocol.

“If none of the municipalities hosting a nuclear plant (agrees to) restart reactors, all the plants will be suspended. The prefectural assembly and the prime minister’s decisions are important,” Furukawa told reporters after Kishimoto announced his decision.

Furukawa earlier hinted that he would approve the restarts in a meeting with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda in late June. Nevertheless, he wants to meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan before making the decision final.

Furukawa came under fire in the prefectural assembly last week over his apparent willingness to approve the restarts. Many of the assembly’s 38 members oppose the move because of local safety concerns.

Kyushu Electric’s Manabe said after the meeting with the mayor that the utility will restart the reactors as soon as Furukawa gives his assent and move toward resuming commercial operations about two weeks later.

“The safety (of the reactors) has been secured by urgent safety measures. The town assembly also agreed to restart the reactors,” said Kishimoto, telling Manabe to avoid human error through further safety steps, although he did elaborate on those already taken or further planned.

“Stable supply of electricity is necessary for Japanese society. I hope this has a positive effect on other plants,” the mayor said of his decision.

Manabe said he was grateful and then visited Karatsu in the prefecture and met with Deputy Mayor Masaaki Seto to inform him about the Genkai mayor’s decision.

“At the moment, I am still cautious about the resumption,” Seto said.

Two of the Genkai plant’s four reactors — units 2 and 3 — have been shut for regular checks. Their restart was postponed by the radiation crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano welcomed the Genkai decision.

“I take it positively as indicating a certain degree of support (for resumption),” Edano told a press conference, emphasizing that the government will continue to keep on telling municipalities and residents that the reactors are safe.

But Edano did not make it clear whether Kan would meet with the governor of Saga.

Meanwhile, members of an antinuclear group visited Genkai City Hall to protest the restart decision.

Tsuneyuki Taguchi, a 59-year-old farmer who lives 10 km from the Genkai nuclear plant, said he was absolutely against rebooting the reactors.

“The discussion (over restarting the reactors) is still under way in neighboring municipalities and I cannot accept Genkai’s decision.”