Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on May 29 that Japan’s suspended nuclear reactors must be restarted for the sake of the country’s economy and its people.
"Nuclear energy has accounted for 30 percent of electricity supply (in Japan)," Noda told the Lower House plenary session. "The Japanese economy and the people's lives could no longer get along if we were to part with it immediately."
He added: "I will make a decision on the restart of nuclear reactors, for which safety and necessity have been confirmed, with the understanding of local governments concerned."
The remarks were made during a question and answer session with Noda on the first day of deliberations on two bills on nuclear safety reforms, which include provisions to establish a new nuclear regulation agency. The original plan was to set up the new regulatory body on April 1 by integrating the functions of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, but disagreements between the ruling and opposition parties stalled the legislation.
The government is eager to restart two idle nuclear power reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture at an early date to avoid a power shortage in summer. Currently, none of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors are operating, with some suspended for routine maintenance but unable to restart because of political opposition.
The Noda administration needs to get the approval of the Fukui prefectural government for the restart at Oi.
In response, Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa called for the central government to send an unswerving "message to the general public" to gain the understanding of the importance of nuclear energy as a source of electric power. Nishikawa had been irritated by the central government's vacillations on nuclear power policy, and his stance may have prompted Noda’s comments to the Lower House.
"We will make efforts to win a certain level of understanding from power-consuming regions other than the local governments that host (nuclear reactors)," Noda said. "But we will make a final decision on the responsibility of the central government."
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