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Edano won’t rush restarts

Local opinions will be weighed, METI chief says

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Newly appointed trade and industry minister Yukio Edano said he won’t set a time frame for deciding whether to restart halted nuclear reactors currently undergoing stress tests.

“Rather than setting a time frame, we need to go through a careful process to gain the understanding of local residents,” Edano said in a recent interview with The Japan Times and other media outlets.

Earlier, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said it would be too late to wait until April to prepare for the power needs of the following summer.

The most important thing is to disclose the process for the safety inspections to local residents early on and listen to their opinions, while the regulatory body works to confirm their safety, Edano said.

His predecessor, Yoshio Hachiro, who resigned after just eight days in office, had hinted it wouldn’t take until April to decide whether to restart the idled reactors. In the meantime, Edano said the government will do everything it can to avoid imposing compulsory power reductions on major electricity users next summer.

While the situation for next summer is unclear, “we’ve estimated that it probably won’t be necessary to issue an order for the upcoming winter, if we make a certain degree of effort,” he said.

To cover immediate power shortages, Edano said that natural gas is one effective source of energy and that the government is planning to include a support measure in the upcoming extra budget to help utilities obtain natural gas at a reduced cost.

For the medium and long term, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will be pushing renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on nuclear power, Edano stressed.

As for reactors currently under construction or in the planning stage, Edano said he will look at each case carefully.

On exporting nuclear power technology, “if a partner country still expects our technology, we need to meet that expectation to maintain international confidence,” he said.

Edano, a graduate of Tohoku University, entered politics in 1993 with Japan New Party and then joined New Party Sakigake.