METI bigwig to pressure Kyoto, Shiga on Oi restarts

JIJI

Senior vice industry minister Seishu Makino will visit Kyoto and Shiga prefectures on Monday to drum up support for restarting two idled reactors in neighboring Fukui Prefecture, ministry chief Yukio Edano said Friday.

Makino is expected to hold separate meetings with Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada and Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada to explain the government’s recent decision to approve the restart of the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant.

Some areas near the borders of Shiga and Kyoto are within 30 km of the Oi plant and thus would fall within the government’s envisioned Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone around nuclear plants.

In his pitch to persuade the two governors to consent to the restarts, a step they are extremely reluctant to take because of heightened public fears over atomic power, Makino will stress Fukui Prefecture’s long-time efforts to ensure safety at the plants, ministry officials said.

Senior officials from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency as well as the Agency for Natural Resource and Energy, under the trade ministry, will also attend the meetings to explain the safety measures being taken at the reactors and their present estimates of electricity supply and demand this summer in the Kansai region, the officials said.

Edano visited Fukui Prefecture himself last Saturday to seek Gov. Issei Nishikawa’s consent to restart the two reactors.

Both Yamada and Kada, however, have criticized the government’s decision to fire up the Oi reactors as premature. In a joint seven-point nuclear policy proposal announced Tuesday, they called on the state to draw up a road map for reducing Japan’s dependence on atomic energy.

At Monday’s meetings, the governors are expected to press Makino to start adopting their proposals.

None of commercial nuclear reactors suspended for regular inspections since the Fukushima nuclear crisis started last March have been reactivated, and Japan’s last operating unit is scheduled to be taken offline May 5.

Hashimoto to attend meet

Osaka JIJI

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has said he plans to attend Kansai Electric Power Co.’s shareholders’ meeting in June.

Hashimoto made the comments at a news conference Thursday. According to people close to him, the mayor, an outspoken opponent of atomic energy, is expected to demand that Kansai Electric immediately move to abolish all its nuclear power plants.

As the Osaka Municipal Government is the top shareholder in the utility, with a 9 percent stake, Hashimoto’s opinions carry considerable weight.

The mayor is also expected to propose that Kepco substantially increase its use of renewable energy sources, separate its power generation and distribution operations, cut the number of board members in half, disclose each executive’s pay, and stop appointing former high-ranking bureaucrats as senior executives.