Oi mayor: Difficult to make early decision on nuke plant restart

February 25, 2012

Two nuclear reactors shut down for safety checks in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, are unlikely to be restarted before the end of this fiscal year.

Oi's mayor, Shinobu Tokioka, voiced doubts that the reactors will be operational by the end of March as the government had hoped.

"The central government should first assess the amount of energy that should be generated by nuclear power and then decide what is necessary," Tokioka told The Asahi Shimbun in a Feb. 24 interview. "If the prefectural government approves that decision, I want the central government to then hold explanatory meetings for the residents (in Oi)."

The central government hopes to have the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Oi nuclear power plant, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., back online by the end of March.

The central government has indicated that the restart of nuclear reactors is contingent on approval by the heads of the local governments that host them.

Tokioka's reluctance to move speedily on the issue could have repercussions for the central government's policies.

With 13 commercial nuclear reactors, Fukui has more nuclear facilities than any other prefecture.

The meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant prompted the Fukui prefectural government to call for provisional safety standards that reflect lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster as a precondition for restarting its nuclear reactors.

Tokioka said he was of the same opinion, adding that no safety standards have so far been presented that could reassure the Fukui prefectural and Oi town governments.

"Even if safety standards are forthcoming, I think it will be difficult to proceed to the stage of explanatory meetings by the end of March," he said.

"We will win the understanding of the local communities and then make a political decision," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a news conference on Feb. 10.

The central government is concerned about possible power shortages this summer.

It hopes to pave the way for winning the approval of local governments before the current session of the Fukui prefectural assembly ends in March.

If all goes according to plan, the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Oi plant will be the first in Japan to be restarted since the the Great East Japan Earthquake.

(This article was written by Rie Yamada and Naohiko Toki.)

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The Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture (The Asahi Shimbun)

The Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture (The Asahi Shimbun)

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  • The Oi nuclear power plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture (The Asahi Shimbun)

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