Operations at all of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants will be suspended “for a moment” starting on May 6, trade minister Yukio Edano said in a speech in the city of Tokushima Sunday.
His comment suggests the government will be unable to restart reactors 3 and 4 at the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture by May 5, when the Tomari nuclear power plant will go offline for a regular inspection.
All 54 reactors except for No. 3 at the Tomari plant have been taken offline for scheduled checkups. They have stayed offline because operators have been unable to overcome safety concerns sparked by the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant last year.
The government had been trying to restart the Oi reactors before the shutdown of the last reactor at Tomari, apparently fearing that the political hurdles to restart them will be higher if all 54 are stopped at once.
Antinuclear activists have argued Japan can get by without atomic power, while the state and its utilities have warned of power shortages this summer if all the units are stopped.
Edano visited Fukui Saturday to assure Gov. Issei Nishikawa that the Oi reactors are safe to restart and there is no possibility of a meltdown. But Nishikawa did not immediately consent to the request, apparently prompting Edano to conclude that the chance of firing up the Oi reactors before May 5 is remote.