Friday, November 07, 2014

Japan to restart 2 nuclear reactors despite local opposition, safety concerns

Two nuclear reactors in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima have been cleared to be restarted by Governor Yuichiro Ito and prefectural assembly, making the prefecture the first to gain such approval to restart its idled reactors since new safety regulations were introduced after the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Clearance for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in the prefecture was given Friday by Ito and the assembly, with the governor telling a news conference that while he effectively had "no choice" in the matter, the restart was "essential" and that Japan's nuclear watchdog had approved the reactors' safety standards and compliance.

Further safety inspections will be carried out by Japan's nuclear regulators, but pending final checks the two reactors are scheduled to be brought back online early next year, marking the first restart since the nuclear meltdowns, the worst of their kind since Chernobyl in 1986, at the Fukushima Daiichi complex in the northeast of Japan in March 2011.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the move was a positive step forward in bringing the idled plants back online and the government favors resuming generating nuclear power as fossil fuel imports for thermal generators are weighing heavily on the government's balance sheet.
  • However, not all residents in Satsumasendai city, which host the two reactors, supported the restart, with a solid contingent adamant that the plant remains unsafe and that local prefectural officials should be ashamed of complying so easily to the central government's wishes, instead of prioritizing their own communities.
  • Among some of the arguments voiced is the fact that the Sendai plant is located in a seismically active region with numerous active volcanic sites, and concerns are raised over the eruption of a nearby volcano.
They highlighted, in addition, that Japan's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), must screen all safety requests and check new safety measures implemented by nuclear plant operators to meet the new regulations before greenlighting their restart. But evacuation plans, such as those developed to deal with an unprecedented volcanic eruption, are created by the local communities themselves and are not required to be mandated by the NRA.

While Ito said all evacuation plans and scenarios are "concrete and rational," what is considered "local approval" for the reactors to be restarted has been called into question, as Satsumasendai's neighboring villages and towns have no legal say on the matter.

In September, the NRA initially granted its approval to restart the two reactors at the Sendai plant, stating that the plant was first in line for being restarted, out of the 48 idled reactors nationwide.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a staunch supporter of bringing the nation's nuclear power stations back online, as a weak yen, punctuated more so since Japan's central bank expanded its monetary easing program last week, forcing the currency to seven-year lows versus its major counterparts, has continued to push up the price of Japan's fuel imports, like liquified natural gas and coal, used to compensate for the lack of atomic energy.
 Source:Xinhua -

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