Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi on April 23 said an idled nuclear reactor could be restarted as early as autumn, the first time a Cabinet member has mentioned a timetable for bringing at least one of the nation's 48 suspended reactors back online.
On a BS Japan Corp. TV program, Motegi was asked about the earliest possible date for the restart of nuclear reactors.
"I think it will probably be in autumn," he replied.
Currently, 48 of the nation's 50 nuclear reactors are idled, a consequence of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Only the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an independent nuclear industry watchdog, can decide whether an idled reactor can be restarted. Motegi's statement could affect the NRA's decision on restarts, as the agency prepares to put in place new safety standards on earthquake and tsunami preparedness for nuclear plants.
"The world’s strictest regulation standards, drawn up by the independent NRA, will be completed on July 18," Motegi said.
Following the NRA's inspections based on the new standards, an autumn restart of a reactor could be expected, he said.
When asked whether the government can obtain the understanding of residents living near reactors, Motegi said, "We are making an effort to do so."
The Abe Cabinet has previously said the NRA will complete examinations of all reactors within three years, and the government will allow restarts from those reactors that are confirmed to be safe. However, no specific goal for the restarts has been given.
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