Vice minister makes case for reactor restart

Governors of Shiga, Kyoto resist pressure from Tokyo


A senior government official visited Shiga Prefecture on Monday to win support for reactivating two offline reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in neighboring Fukui Prefecture.

Senior vice trade minister Seishu Makino explained to Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada the central government believes the two idled reactors are safe to use again and that it is necessary to do so to secure the electricity supply this summer. Makino then went on to visit Kyoto later in the day to hold a similar conversation with Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada.

In response, Kada said she was concerned and that the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant is “not someone else’s problem.”

Yamada said it is an important issue for Kyoto as well because of the dire threat of radioactive fallout spreading from a nuclear accident.

The two governors, whose prefectures come within a 30-km radius of the Oi plant, have aired concerns about firing up the idled reactors, saying they could be as badly affected as the municipality that hosts the plant if a major accident occurs.

The two governors jointly submitted a seven-point proposal for changing nuclear energy policy that calls for setting up a third-party panel to fairly examine the region’s electricity situation and a plan to eventually create a society that doesn’t need to rely on nuclear power.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested last week that following the proposals will not be a precondition for reactivating the reactors at the Oi plant, run by Kansai Electric Power Co.

Since the Fukushima crisis triggered, none of the nation’s 53 idled reactors have resumed operation after being shut down for mandatory periodic checks, and the Oi units are the front-runners in the process for resuming them.

In the government’s first effort to seek regional political approval for restarting idled reactors since the introduction of so-called stress tests in July last year, trade minister Yukio Edano traveled to Fukui Prefecture on April 14 to meet Gov. Issei Nishikawa and Shinobu Tokioka, the mayor of Oi.

Shiga Gov. Kada is calling for the minister to visit her prefecture to explain the government’s stance on the Oi reactors.

The decision to dispatch Makino instead of Edano, to Shiga and Kyoto prefectures reflects its stance of attaching the highest value to the municipality hosting the complex, observers say.