More reactors to restart if safety verified: Amari

JIJI

The government will permit the restart of more nuclear reactors if their safety is confirmed, economic revitalization minister Akira Amari said Thursday.

He made the remark in a meeting in Tokyo with Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Shosuke Mori, who asked that idled reactors be reactivated swiftly once they are deemed safe.

It is “extremely important” to ensure stable supply of low-cost energy for the sake of the economy, Amari told Mori, the chairman of Kansai Electric Power Co.

Units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric’s Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture are the only reactors currently in operation in Japan, while the 48 others remain idled mainly because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The two Oi reactors resumed operations last July.

In a related move, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will start discussions in March on a new basic energy policy, including the future of nuclear power, officials said.

A subgroup of the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy, which advises the head of METI, will begin its talks in midmonth, the officials said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning a full rethink of the existing energy policy, which calls for lowering Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy to zero by the 2030s.

The policy was put in place by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government in September in response to the Fukushima catastrophe, which started in March 2011. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party knocked the DPJ from power in the December election.

The subpanel will have about 15 members, some 40 percent fewer than a previous committee group that handled the topic. The reduction is expected to mainly affect members who oppose nuclear power.

Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. adviser Akio Mimura will chair the new subgroup after holding the same role in the previous subgroup.