40% of firms back restarting Sendai reactors in Kyushu: survey

Kyodo

About 40 percent of major companies in Kyushu and Okinawa want Kyushu Electric Power Co. to restart the nearby Sendai nuclear plant, a survey showed Friday.

The two-unit Sendai plant, situated in a region of active volcanic sites, is likely to be the first of the nation’s 48 idled commercial reactors to be restarted because it is in the final stage of its safety review. Due to the Fukushima disaster, all 48 must pass the safety test established by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority before they can generate electricity again.

Of the 54 firms that responded to the survey, 23 said they would back a restart, 23 were noncommittal and eight chose not to answer.

While none of the companies openly declared opposition to restarting the reactors, some questioned the safety of doing so when asked further about their neutral stance.

All of the nation’s reactors remain offline because of the new regulations set up after the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant after the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. The disaster raised so many questions and brought so much incompetence to light in the nuclear industry and government that its regulator had to be scrapped and replaced with the NRA.

The survey found that 15 firms said, in response to multiple choice questions, that they welcome restarting the Sendai plant because of the “need for a stable supply of electricity,” while 11 said they hoped its restart would revitalize the economy in the Kyushu region.

Five companies said they favor the restart because it could lead to lower electricity rates and help improve their businesses.

For those who answered that they can neither support nor oppose the restart, five firms said the safety of operating the reactors would still be in question even after getting safety clearance.

Four firms said that the restart plan hasn’t been well coordinated with the local community yet, and three companies said that deciding to restart the Sendai plant is premature at a time when the Fukushima crisis continues to drag on.

Asked whether they would be in favor of raising electricity rates in the event the restart is delayed, 13 said they would not, two said they would, and 31 were neutral.