Twelve years after one of the worst nuclear disasters in history shook Japan and turned the public against atomic power, a global energy crisis is encouraging the country to switch its reactors back on.

Faced with rising heating bills this winter after a sweltering summer spent worrying about blackouts, more people are now reappraising the benefits of cheaper and more stable energy. Even some of those living near nuclear plants are looking beyond their fears of another radioactive disaster.

"The rising power bills are really painful. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Tsutomu Hirayama, a 56-year-old hotel owner in Tomioka, a coastal town between the now-decommissioned Fukushima No. 1 and its sister plant, Fukushima No. 2, both run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco). "Given the current economic downturn, rising prices and surge in fuel costs, I wonder if there’s any choice but to use nuclear power in order to survive.”