• Kyodo News


Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai said Tuesday that he is upset with the numerous fires that have broken out at the nation’s biggest nuclear power plant as it struggles to restart a quake-halted reactor amid international scrutiny.

“I would like to urge all of those concerned to reflect seriously” on the incidents, Nikai told reporters after Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported a minor fire Saturday in a storehouse at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power complex in Niigata Prefecture.

Also Tuesday, Tepco Executive Vice President Ichiro Takekuro visited the Niigata Prefectural Government and apologized for the trouble. The prefecture demanded that the utility probe every possible cause of the fire.

Tepco has just obtained approval to restart a reactor at the facility, which was forced to close after being hit by a major earthquake in July 2007. The utility may restart the reactor within the month at the earliest, despite strong concerns about safety among local residents and municipalities.

There have been nine fires at the complex since the quake, Nikai said, calling it “really regrettable.”

“Other countries have been paying attention to whether we will be able to restart our country’s biggest nuclear power plant,” the minister said.

On Monday, despite public worry, the Kashiwazaki Municipal Government said it would not revoke its approval for the restart.

Experts say that whether Japan can restart the reactor will affect its environment policy, under which it is seeking a “low-carbon society,” as well as its attempt to curb industrial emissions of greenhouse gases.

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