• Kyodo

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Industry minister Banri Kaieda said Friday that the overall economy will be “largely affected” if utilities, especially in western Japan, cannot resume operations of their nuclear reactors, which are currently suspended for regular checkups amid public concerns about their safety.

Kaieda said he made the remarks during an informal ministerial session following the day’s Cabinet meeting, given that more companies are increasing production in western Japan in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which has raised fears of power shortages in eastern and northeastern Japan.

“I told other ministers that a decline in the western regional economy due to power supply shortages there would have a large impact on quake restoration and Japan’s economy as a whole,” Kaieda told reporters.

Among Japan’s 54 commercial nuclear reactors, more than 30 are not in operation because of regular checkups or have been suspended after the March disaster struck, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The government confirmed in May that utilities nationwide have taken appropriate emergency measures as ordered to ensure the safety of their nuclear plants in case they are hit by large tsunami.

It also announced Tuesday additional measures the utilities should take to counter or prevent severe accidents that could inflict serious damage to reactor cores, including steps to prevent hydrogen explosions from occurring in reactor buildings. But the apparent concerns of the local people hosting nuclear plants are whether they are actually safe.

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