FUKUI – Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa on Monday gave the go-ahead for Kansai Electric Power Co. to restart two reactors at its Oi power plant.
With Fukui also hosting Kansai Electric’s Takahama plant, where two reactors have already resumed operation, restarting the units at the Oi complex would make the prefecture the first since the 2011 Fukushima crisis to have two active nuclear power plants.
Nishikawa conveyed the decision to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko by telephone Monday.
The Osaka-based utility hopes to bring the Oi plant’s No. 3 reactor back online in mid-January and the No. 4 reactor in mid-March.
The two reactors resumed operation in July 2012 under tentative nuclear safety standards set by the Democratic Party of Japan government while all other reactors in the country remained idle for inspections following the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 complex.
The two reactors at the Oi complex, which sits on the Sea of Japan coast, were shut down in September 2013 for regular inspections and cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety review based on post-Fukushima screening standards in May.
The governor’s approval came after Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said Thursday the utility will decide by the end of 2018 where to set up a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel.
Nishikawa had been requesting the utility’s construction plan for the facility.
He told a news conference that his decision came after “comprehensively considering opinions of our town and prefectural assemblies as well as responses of the government and the plant operator to the idea of setting up an interim storage facility outside our prefecture.”
The central government has yet to pick a final disposal site for nuclear waste, including spent fuel.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga meanwhile said it is “extremely meaningful” that the restart plan has been approved by the host governor.
Suga, however, declined to clarify the government’s stance on the opposition voiced by Taizo Mikazuki, the governor of neighboring Shiga Prefecture.
About 20 anti-nuclear activists gathered in front of the Fukui Prefectural Government’s main building Monday to protest the decision.
Jiku Miyazaki, a 73-year-old temple master in Oi, expressed concern about whether residents can safely evacuate if a nuclear accident occurs.
“Under the current conditions, we won’t be able to evacuate,” Miyazaki said, citing troubles residents encounter when typhoons strike the region.”We want them to take measures in view of the possibility of the two nuclear plants having accidents at the same time.”
Some residents are counting on the economic benefits that an influx of plant workers could bring to shops and other businesses in the area.
A man in his 50s said: “Our life here depends on (the plant). As long as the governor judges it is safe, we need it to be restarted or we will be in trouble.”