Central government officials are realizing they will have to depend on Fukui prefectural officials for a restart of the Oi nuclear power plant in the prefecture anytime soon.
An effort to convince officials of neighboring prefectures on May 19 to consent to a resumption of operations met with little success and much opposition over safety concerns.
One official in the prime minister's office indicated that the decision would be made to resume operations if the Fukui prefectural government gave its approval, even if neighboring prefectural governments continued to be opposed.
"The Kansai region business world is asking that operations be resumed," the official said. "It is all up to the Fukui prefectural government."
In an effort to seek broader support, the government dispatched Goshi Hosono, the state minister in charge of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to meet with officials outside of Fukui Prefecture on May 19 and seek their support.
Hosono explained the provisional safety standards established by the central government as a condition for resumption of operations at nuclear plants that have undergone periodic inspections. The meeting was attended by government officials of seven prefectures in the Kansai region.
In the meeting, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto reiterated his opposition to resumption of operations at the Oi plant, calling the provisional safety standards "measures to deal with a possible nuclear accident rather than true standards."
However, Hashimoto did leave room for some compromise.
"Even in cases when nuclear plants have to begin operations, there are various ways of going about it," he said. "There is the possibility of temporary operations for between one to three months until safety standards are created."
Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada worked with Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada to compile a list of seven recommendations prior to resumption of Oi plant operations. Although Kada did not attend the May 19 gathering, Yamada expressed his displeasure with the government's lack of effort on the safety front.
"Why was the Nuclear Safety Commission not asked to decide on the creation of new safety standards?" Yamada asked.
Wakayama Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka and Hyogo Governor Toshizo Ido, who chairs the regional conference of prefectural governments, also asked that a final decision on resuming operations be made only after confirmation of the safety of the nuclear plant has been made by experts.
After the meeting, Hashimoto continued with his criticism of the efforts by the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to rush the resumption of operations.
"There are no safety standards in Japan right now so (operation resumption) cannot be allowed," Hashimoto told reporters. "I hope the Democratic Party of Japan government will wake up."
Yamada also told reporters that there was no change in his cautious stance on resuming operations.
With no indication that the governors of neighboring prefectures are being convinced by the central government's efforts, Fukui prefectural government officials apparently hold the key to whether the Oi plant can go back online.
The Oi municipal assembly agreed to have the Oi plant resume operations of its No. 3 and No. 4 reactors on May 14. Noda administration officials are hoping that the Fukui prefectural government will also give its consent soon.
On a May 17 program broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), Noda said the time was close for making a decision on the Oi plant.
With the expected tight power supply in summer approaching, with none of the nation's 50 reactors online, an electricity shortfall of almost 15 percent is projected for peak demand time in August in the Kansai region.
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