Officials weigh restart of Shikoku Electric reactor

JIJI

Some ruling party officials are considering a plan to restart the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture.

The plan comes as the government finds itself facing difficulties over moves to bring back online the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, due to strong opposition from officials of neighboring prefectures.

Some officials of the government and the Democratic Party of Japan are concerned the country will have no operating reactor once the No. 3 reactor at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear plant suspends operations on May 5 for routine maintenance.

In a TV program aired Sunday, DPJ policy chief Seiji Maehara said he does not agree with an opinion that the government should put on hold procedures to restart suspended reactors until a new nuclear regulatory agency is established. He suggested any necessary safety reviews be handled by the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission and the industry ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

A senior DPJ official said that procedures to reactivate the Ikata reactor will be promoted after the commission completes its screening of the reactor’s stress test results. On Saturday, industry minister Yukio Edano said he plans to ask the commission to review the Ikata test results, an apparent change of stance. He previously said such a process should be conducted after the new regulatory agency is set up.

The industry ministry’s nuclear safety agency has already approved the Ikata test results. But the commission has been refusing to carry out its own screening amid uncertainty about when the Diet will pass legislation to set up the new regulatory agency.

The government earlier this month confirmed the safety of the Oi reactors after the commission approved the results of their stress test. But the restart of the Oi reactors has drawn strong opposition from the governors of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, both of which border Fukui.

By contrast, a power industry source said, local opposition to restarting the Ikata reactor is not very strong as Ehime, a prefecture on the island of Shikoku, lies next to the Seto Inland Sea.