Citing safety concerns, industry minister Yukio Edano expressed opposition Tuesday to temporarily reactivating two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture to meet peak demand during summer.
Edano said that temporarily reactivating the Oi reactors “could be taken as allowing them to operate when (electricity) is in short supply even though they may not be safe.”
“As the government, we can hardly propose such a measure to the people of Fukui Prefecture and the town of Oi, who will suffer severe effects if an accident occurs there,” Edano said.
He added that the government is currently working to persuade people living near the plant and elsewhere in the Sea of Japan coastal town to allow reactivation of the reactors.
To this end, the government is preparing to dispatch nuclear accident minister Goshi Hosono to a meeting in Tottori Prefecture on Wednesday of the Union of Kansai Governments, where he will explain the central government’s view on the Oi reactors to governors and local leaders in western Japan, Edano said.
All of Japan’s 50 commercial reactors are currently offline amid heightened concerns over nuclear power.
The central government is trying to reactivate two offline reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant but is struggling in the face of opposition from some quarters.
The government earlier this month asked citizens and businesses in many areas of Japan to cut their use of electricity this summer to prevent possible blackouts. The balance of electricity supply and demand for Kepco’s service area, including major cities like Osaka and Kyoto, is considered especially severe given the utility’s heavy dependency on nuclear power before the Fukushima crisis.
Pressure from Kepco
Kansai Electric Power Co. President Makoto Yagi is urging Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to decide soon to restart the utility’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, while Noda said the time for the decision is coming closer.
“The final decision is up to the government, or the prime minister,” Yagi said at a news conference Monday at Kepco’s head office in Osaka. “I would like to ask the prime minister to make a bold decision quickly.”
In Tokyo, Noda said in an interview with a press group, “The time is approaching to make the decision,” referring to the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant.
Kepco is seeking to restart the two reactors of the four-reactor plant to help ease expected summer electricity shortages.
Yagi suggested that even if preparations are launched immediately to restart the two reactors, it would be difficult to achieve their full operation in early July when the utility plans to begin asking customers to save electricity in the face of shortages.
About three weeks are required to bring a reactor into full operation, he said.