Regrettable ‘go’ on reactors

The government on Saturday finally gave the go-ahead to Kansai Electric Power Co.’s plan to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. The decision ignores the crucial lesson from the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant: Building and operating nuclear power plants in this quake-prone country, which could cause a catastrophe with irreparable damage, is untenable as a policy.

Regrettably the government made the decision even without presenting a concrete road map to eventually make Japan free from nuclear power. The decision this time will dampen people’s efforts to save power. Economically it will be sound for Japan to push green energy industry to create new technologies and jobs and to disperse small-scale power plants using renewable energy sources across the nation.

It is deplorable that although both the government and Kepco were aware for a long time of the possibility that the areas serviced by Kepco will face power shortages this coming summer, they did not make preparations in advance to overcome the expected shortages without relying on nuclear power. It is not far-fetched to say that while not making such preparations, the government and Kepco roused a fear about power shortage and used it as an excuse to restart the Oi reactors. Attention must be paid to the fact that the government has ruled out limiting the operation of the Oi reactors to the coming summer as a means of tiding over large demand for power mainly due to use of air-conditioners.

It is not unreasonable to suspect that the government and the power industry are aiming to use the Oi restart as the first step to carry out full-scale restart of all the reactors that are now offline without making a concrete plan to abolish nuclear power generation in Japan.

Clearly the safety measures taken for the Oi plant are inadequate. It will take three years for Kepco to install filters to remove radioactive substances in case such substances have to be vented from reactor cores during an emergency.

It will also take three years for Kepco to install a seismically isolated emergency command center. In addition, neither the government nor Kepco has worked out a concrete plan to evacuate people in case a severe accident occurs at the Oi plant.

On June 8, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said even if a quake and a tsunami as strong as those that hit Fukushima No. 1 occured, an accident can be prevented and that it is ensured that even loss of all power sources will not lead to damage a reactor core.

How many people will believe his assurance?