Takeo Hiranuma, economy, trade and industry chief, will visit Niigata Prefecture on Wednesday to try to gain local government approval to restart a nuclear reactor.
Hiranuma said Tuesday he is scheduled to meet with Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama, Kashiwazaki Mayor Masazumi Saikawa, Kariwa Village Mayor Hiroo Shinada and members of the prefectural and municipal government assemblies.
Hiranuma is hoping to gain local support for restarting the No. 4 nuclear reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
It will be Hiranuma’s second such mission to the prefecture; his first was June 6.
After revelations last August that Tepco had falsified safety reports to cover up reactor faults, the utility in April shut down all 17 of its reactors — seven in Niigata Prefecture and 10 in Fukushima Prefecture — for safety checks and repairs.
The No. 4 reactor was shut down for safety checks in January. Tepco replaced cracked pipe segments with new pipes, according to officials of the utility, Japan’s largest.
Of the 17 reactors, the No. 6 was restarted in May and the No. 7 in June, but the rest are still offline.
Tepco could legally reactivate the No. 4 reactor upon approval from Japan’s nuclear regulator without local consent. But the central government hopes to win local backing to avoid trouble.
Hiranuma reiterated his hope that Fukushima Gov. Eisaku Sato will soon give his consent for restarting the No. 6 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
“We have already ensured the safety of the No. 6 reactor by conducting all kinds of safety checks,” Hiranuma said. “We want to hear a positive response from the governor as soon as possible.”
Sato has remained cautious about giving his consent, saying he wants to make a final decision after receiving an explanation from Tepco President Tsunehisa Katsumata about the utility’s measures to ensure safety.
Tepco and the ministry fear that if they cannot restart the reactors, the Tokyo metropolitan area will face severe power shortages this month and next as homes and offices crank up their air conditioners.
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