More than half of Japan's population opposes moves by the government to approve the restart of reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
Underscoring widespread public distrust in nuclear safety, 55 percent of respondents in an Asahi Shimbun survey took issue with the government's stance.
The nationwide telephone survey was conducted April 14-15, with 3,071 eligible voters contacted at random. Thus, The Asahi Shimbun was able to extrapolate the high sense of unease. The newspaper received 1,779 valid responses.
The questions had multiple answers.
Only 28 percent of the respondents agreed that the Cabinet members in the Noda administration had a valid reason to resume operations of the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant. The facility has been shut down for regular maintenance checks.
The survey highlighted a strong sense of distrust in the Cabinet's arguments about the safety and necessity of bringing the plant back online.
Only 17 percent of respondents said they "trust" the provisional safety standards endorsed by the Cabinet shortly before it signaled its intention to seek the restart of the Oi reactors. An overwhelming 70 percent of respondents said they "do not trust" the standards.
Eighteen percent said they "believe" the government's and utilities' prospects of power supply and demand for this summer, and 66 percent said they "do not believe" them.
Respondents were also asked if the consent of local municipalities, as well as prefectures, was necessary or whether the central government's judgment was sufficient to resume the operation of a nuclear plant. An overwhelming majority, 88 percent, said, "Local consent is needed," while 8 percent said, "A government judgment is enough."
When the respondents who cited local consent were asked about the scope, 13 percent said, "consent of a municipality and a prefecture that host a plant is enough," while 83 percent said, "consent of nearby municipalities and prefectures is needed."
The survey shows that 70 percent of all the respondents believe the approval of nearby municipalities is a mandatory requirement for a restart.
In resuming operations of the Oi plant, the Cabinet plans to seek consent of Fukui Prefecture and the town of Oi, but it has been vague about which of the neighboring local authorities it would contact to gain agreement.
When it was inaugurated last September, the Noda Cabinet called for lessening the nation's dependence on nuclear power. But just 19 percent said it is "proceeding" with the policy, and 61 percent said it is "not proceeding" with it.
The support rating for the Cabinet stood at 25 percent, almost unchanged from 27 percent in February and March surveys.
The figures for December and January were 31 percent and 29 percent, respectively, which shows the approval rating is on a downward trend.
Respondents were also asked about a bill to raise the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October in 2015. Forty percent approved of the decision, while 51 percent disapproved. The figures compare with 41 percent for and 46 percent against in March.
Asked about the extent of progress in discussions on social security reforms under the Noda Cabinet, just 10 percent said "progress" had been achieved "significantly" or "somewhat." On the other hand, 87 percent said it has not made progress "so much" or "at all."
As for efforts to reduce wasteful government spending, only 7 percent said the Cabinet has "made progress," while 90 percent said it has "not made progress."
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