A day after trade minister Yukio Edano said the nation would experience a “momentary” suspension of nuclear power, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura on Monday sought to allay concern the government was rushing to reactivate reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
In a speech Sunday, Edano said Japan would “momentarily” be without nuclear power from its 54 commercial reactors on May 5 when the Tomari plant in Hokkaido goes offline for a regular inspection. Some interpreted his statement to mean that other idled reactors would start up immediately after the Tomari plant’s No. 3 unit is suspended.
” ‘Momentarily’ was not necessarily an appropriate expression,” Fujimura said Monday morning. “We share the common understanding that there needs to be a certain amount of time (to persuade the public). . . . I think he mentioned the likely possibility that there will be no activated nuclear power plants.”
Fujimura insisted that no deadline has been set for local discussions on restarting the reactors. But he ducked reporters’ questions about whether local government “approval” is really necessary to fire up the Oi plant.
“As I have continuously stated, the understanding of the locals will be a major factor” when determining reactivation, Fujimura said. “There are no legal grounds that say (consent) is a necessary requirement, but given last year’s March 11 disaster, we are proceeding with measures decided last July” to hold two-stage stress tests.
Attention has focused on reactors 3 and 4, which would be the first reactivated since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Local leaders slammed last week’s declaration of safety by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Edano and two other ministers, accusing them of rushing to conclusions.
Last week, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto declared war on the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, stating that the party needed to be unseated in the next Lower House general election. Hashimoto has indicated he will make the reactivation of the reactors a key issue in the race.
But Fujimura urged Hashimoto to refrain from making reactors restarts a political issue.
“I don’t think (the reactors) should be the issue of focus when seeking the judgment of the people. I don’t think we should make it too political. . . . We need to put our heads together to think realistically about this summer” to overcome power shortages, Fujimura said.