Decision on Oi reactor restarts delayed

Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three other ministers on Thursday decided to delay their decision on whether to restart two reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture until Friday, at the earliest.

Ever since the Fukushima nuclear crisis erupted in March last year, not one reactors idled for standard checkups across the nation has been allowed to resume operation due to nationwide misgivings about the safety of atomic power. Reactors 3 and 4 at the Oil plant are the first being considered for resumption.

Trade minister Yukio Edano said after the ministers’ fifth meeting on the issue this month that the four agreed to meet again possibly on Friday to talk more about the touchy issue.

“Since this is a very important matter, we came to judge that we need to discuss it more,” Edano said.

The next meeting should be held as soon as possible but the date is difficult to set given that North Korea is about to launch another rocket, he said.

At their previous meeting on Monday, the four ministers confirmed that the reactors, currently idled for routine checkups, “basically” meet the government’s safety standards for resuming operation, despite hurriedly drafting a new set of extra safety measures last week to reflect the concerns of Fukui Prefecture’s governor.

At Thursday’s meeting, they examined the reactors further and checked Kansai Electric Power Co.’s projections for electricity supply and demand this summer to see if their reactivation is really needed to prevent power shortages in the Kansai region.

If Noda, Edano, nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono and Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura decide to push for restarting the reactors, Edano is expected to travel to Fukui Prefecture to explain the decision in person to Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa and Oi town mayor Shinobu Tokioka.

After taking account of local opinions, the four will then make a final decision on whether to “authorize” the restarts.

The four ministers held their first meeting on the matter nine days ago.

Of Japan’s 54 commercial reactors, only the No. 3 reactor at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari plant in Hokkaido is running. But that reactor is due to go offline for routine checks on May 5, severing Japan’s link to nuclear power unless another reactor is brought online by then.