The battle over restarting currently-idled Japanese nukes continues…
- Industry minister Yukio Edano is trying to drum up support for Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa to reactivate Oi units #3 & 4. Edano traveled to Fukui on Saturday after P.M. Noda and the other 3 ministers on the restart task force confirmed the safety and necessity of the restarts. After meeting with Nishikawa, Edano met with Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka, whose town hosts the Kepco power complex. Nishikawa says the Prefecture will use Edano’s information to make a decision on whether or not to agree to the restarts. Mayor Tokioka welcomed the Tokyo endorsement of safety. Once the local opinions are formalized, they will be sent to the Prime Minister. The final decision on the two restarts is expected well-before July. Only one of Japan’s 48 operational nukes continues to run (in Hokkaido) but will be shuttered in early May. Most reputable experts in Japan’s business community maintain there will be a severe electricity shortfall this summer unless nukes get restarted. “It is necessary to use nuclear power as a major source of electricity,” Edano told Nishikawa. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- During their meeting, Nishikawa suggested to Edano that he at least talk to the dissident governors of Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. In addition, he said it would make sense to also contact the dissident mayors of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. In the past, restart requests went through the home municipality and home prefectural governor only. Because of the news-media hoopla created by the dissident mayors and governors outside Fukui, Nishikawa felt Edano should at least include them in his informational tour. After the local Press announced Nishikawa’s suggestion, new meeting requests came in from communities in northern Shiga Prefecture that lie (at least in part) within 30 kilometers of the Oi power station. (Japan Times)
- After the meeting, Nishikawa told the Press some other conditions that need to be met. First, electric consumers outside Fukui need to understand the contribution the Prefecture makes towards the nation’s energy infrastructure. Second, the opinions of the full prefectural assembly and Oi town government must be heard. And lastly, Nishikawa intends to have his own panel of experts judge the safety of Oi units #3 & 4 before a decision on restarting will be made. (JAIF)
- Today it was learned that three members of Fukui’s expert nuclear safety committee say the Tokyo guidelines are sufficient for the restart of Oi units #3 & 4. Committee head Hideyuki Nakagawa said if the government’s safety standards and plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co.’s roadmap for safety measures are used, then the reactors “would be safe.” Two other committee members agreed with Nakagawa. Seven other members of the committee said they had not yet received an explanation of the latest measures from the government and Kansai Electric Power Co. The experts come from fields including nuclear power, seismology, geology and radiology. It independently evaluates issues such as the safety of nuclear power plants from a technical perspective, and provides suggestions to the government. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Fear, uncertainty and doubt continue to breed dissent due to Tokyo’s support for restart. Most critics say the judgment is a “hasty decision” and the publicized necessity for restarts is “unconvincing”. They believe the thought of having no nukes operating in Japan frightens the government, which has been an unabashed supporter of atomic energy for nearly 50 years. Some critics go so far as to accuse the government of manipulating electricity statistics to make it seem like restarts are needed to keep Japan’s industry and economy running. Critics believe greater conservation and a “smart grid” will make nuke restarts un-necessary…period. Tokyo business and industry officials have raised fears about the hollowing out of Japan’s manufacturing industry. So far, power shortages have been avoided through thermal (fossil fueled) power generation, but it is feared that if increased electricity rates resulting from increased fuel prices become fixed, then Japanese businesses could be forced to move overseas. Asked of restarting the Oi power plants could start an avalanche of nuke restarts, Minister Edano said, “Each time, we will make a decision based on safety and necessity,” stressing that restarting the Oi reactors would not automatically open the gates for reactors at other plants to be restarted. (Japan Times)
- An Asahi Shimbun poll of readers shows that as much as 55% of Japan’s people oppose the restarts of Oi units #3 & 4. In addition, 70% do not trust the government’s new, expanded safety standards and 66% do not believe a complete shutdown of all nukes will cause power shortages this coming summer.
- In Osaka, Mayor Toru Hashimoto says he doesn’t trust anything the experts are saying. The region’s most vocal critic of the Oi restarts, Hashimoto increased criticism of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and those in charge of nuclear safety. “Just because politicians say the reactor is safe doesn’t mean they have the ability to judge it’s safe. And while the Nuclear Safety Commission has spoken of the stress tests, they have never specifically used the word ‘safe’,” Hashimoto said. (Japan Times)
- Greenpeace has also attacked Tokyo for wanting to restart the two reactors at Oi. Wakao Hanaoka, the Japan campaign manager for Greenpeace, said Noda and the Oi plant’s operator Kansai Electric Power Co are “recklessly rushing to bring the reactors back online now, saying they meet its lax safety requirements. The nuclear industry and the government were totally unprepared for the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi and now they are trying to pretend they can call Oi safe without improving safety or emergency measures.” He further contends that the forecasts of severe power shortages this summer are a fabrication, “Independent studies show that there will be no power shortages.” Two national newspapers have chimed in support for Greenpeace. “It is hard to understand why the government is in such a haste to restart the reactors,” Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial. “It is uncertain if the plan will ever gain an understanding of communities which have raised objections to the resumption of the reactors,” the Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday. (Japan Today)
In other news…
- On Sunday, Minister Edano said the closure of Tomari unit #3 will mark a momentary suspension of all nukes in Japan. His comment, included with a speech given in Tokushima, gives the first indication that Tokyo does not believe they will be able to surmount all the hurdles needed for restarting any idled reactors by May 6. Sources believe that a complete shutdown of all nukes could add even more obstacles to restarts if electrical shortages do not manifest before the summer heat hits. (News on Japan)
- 52 horses that were stabled in Minamisoma before March 11, 2011, are being returned. They were all moved to northern Hokkaido last spring because they could not get hay devoid of Fukushima isotopes anywhere else. That situation has ended, however. The first eight horses were returned to their happy owners on Sunday after a 17-hour trip in a special van. It is expected the remaining 44 will be returned by late May, in time for an annual summer festival in July. (NHK World)
- This past weekend, the 100th “Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers” was posted by my colleague and friend Will Davis on his fine website, Atomic Power Review. I am privileged to have two items from last Friday’s update posted as part of the celebration. For a rundown of all contributions, go to http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2012/04/100th-carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers.html.