Industry minister Yuko Obuchi said Thursday that it will be “very difficult” to restart Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which escaped severe damage in the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster unlike the No. 1 plant nearby, amid strong calls from locals to decommission its reactors.
Tepco plans to decommission all six reactors at the crippled No. 1 plant, including two that avoided meltdowns, but the utility has yet to make clear what it would do with the four-reactor No. 2 complex, located some 12 km south of the No. 1 plant.
While noting that it is Tepco — not the central government — that should decide whether to decommission reactors at the No. 2 plant, the minister said the plant cannot be dealt with in the same way as other nuclear facilities in the country “given the feelings of people in Fukushima Prefecture.”
Speaking to reporters during her visit to Fukushima Prefecture, Obuchi also said that during a meeting with her in the morning, Gov. Yuhei Sato called for the central government to show strong leadership in deciding to decommission the four reactors at the plant.
The four reactors at the No. 2 plant have been offline since the earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the plant on March 11, 2011, and forced the reactors to shut down. They escaped meltdowns.
Thursday marked Obuchi’s second visit to Fukushima since she took office in the Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is striving to restart the country’s idled nuclear reactors, trying to show its support for the prefecture.
Obuchi, who was picked on Sept. 3 as Japan’s first female minister of economy, trade and industry, has placed the revival of Fukushima and addressing the continuing nuclear crisis at the top of her agenda. She visited the Fukushima No. 1 complex days after assuming her ministerial post.