Industry minister Yukio Edano said April 15 that all nuclear reactors in Japan will be offline temporarily from May 6, underscoring the difficulties the government faces in restarting two idle reactors in Fukui Prefecture.
On May 5, the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido, the only active reactor in Japan, is scheduled to be shut down for regular maintenance.
The central government has been trying to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, but it has met local opposition.
“We intend to have a careful examination conducted as to what will happen without any active nuclear reactors,” Edano said in a speech on April 15 in Tokushima. “People will understand that strains will appear in many areas, at least this summer, if we do not have any reactors online.”
Edano's remark reflected the government stance that the Oi reactors should be restarted as soon as possible to shorten the period in which all reactors are offline.
It was the first time for the government to acknowledge that all nuclear reactors will be shut down in Japan. Japan has always had at least one reactor online since the years immediately after the nation’s first commercial reactor started operations in 1966.
Edano visited Fukui Prefecture on April 14 to seek the approval of Governor Issei Nishikawa to restart the two reactors.
But based on the local responses, Edano apparently concluded that it will be difficult to restart the Oi reactors before the Tomari No. 3 reactor shuts down.
In Tokushima, Edano also reiterated the government’s plan to cut the nation’s dependence on nuclear power over the long term.
“It will be no good relying on nuclear power again, even if no reactors are running for half a year or one year (from May),” Edano said. “We cannot tell whether it will happen five years, 10 years or 20 years from now, but we will reduce dependence on nuclear power to zero on a permanent basis as soon as possible.”
Nuclear accident minister Goshi Hosono also said the government plans to use whatever time it takes to obtain the understanding of local governments for the restarts of the Oi reactors.
“We will not stick to restarting (the reactors) by May 5, and we should not,” Hosono told reporters in Tokyo on April 15.
This article was written by Ryuji Nakagawa and Takeshi Kamiya.
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