Tokyo Weighs Written Guarantee of Nuclear-Plant Safety

Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima prefecture
By Mari Iwata

Eager to get Japan’s nuclear-power plants restarted, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is weighing whether to offer a written statement guaranteeing plants’ safety.

“We have received requests from local governments to guarantee the safety of specific plants–for example, in a written statement,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister who oversees the power industry, at a Tokyo conference Tuesday. “We’ll consider what sort of measures we could take to explain” the situation, said Mr. Motegi, who is minister of economy, trade and industry.

In mid-July, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said two nuclear reactors at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture met new, tougher safety regulations adopted after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011. All of Japan’s 48 reactors are currently offline, and the two Sendai reactors would be the first to restart after the new regulations were adopted. The public-comment period on the regulator’s findings ended Friday.

As Japan Real Time has reported, it is unclear who in Japan has final authority to declare the reactors ready to go. Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has said that the regulator’s job is to check compliance with the regulations and that there is no such thing as complete safety.

Local governments have asked for the central government’s guarantee of safety, while Abe administration officials have said the regulator’s conclusion speaks for itself and requires no elaboration.

Mr. Motegi’s comment Tuesday suggested Mr. Abe’s government might be ready to break the logjam.
Hiromitsu Ino, an emeritus professor at Tokyo University and expert on reactor materials who has been critical of Japan’s safety standards, said he didn’t agree with the idea of a safety guarantee from the top.

“This is not right. Residents have to decide on their own whether they want nuclear power or not,” said Mr. Ino.

Surveys have consistently shown that the public is skeptical about restarting nuclear-power plants, even though consumers are paying higher electricity prices to cover the cost of imported fossil fuels. In a poll by Jiji Press conducted Aug. 7-10, 58% of respondents opposed restarting the Sendai reactors.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s