Japan mayors and governors demand nuclear assurance

Japan mayors and governors demand nuclear assurance

TOKYO -Reuters
Japan mayors and governors demand nuclear assurance

Children light candles during a memorial service for the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Nara, central Japan.

Most Japanese mayors and governors whose communities host nuclear plants want fresh safety assurances beyond government-imposed stress tests before agreeing to the restart of reactors taken off line after the Fukushima crisis, a Reuters poll showed, amid concerns about a looming power crunch this summer. 

All but two of Japan’s 54 reactors have been taken off line since the March 2011 nuclear disaster, mostly for checks or maintenance, and the remaining pair will be shut by early May. 

Nuclear power supplied about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity before the crisis and the government is keen to get some up and running again before electricity demand peaks in the summer. 

But PM Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to get the understanding of local residents, many made wary by the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, before giving the go-ahead. 

Trade Minister Yukio Edano said on Friday he hoped Japan could get through the peak season without mandatory power restrictions such as those imposed last year in eastern and northeastern Japan. But he also said the possibility of power shortages should not affect decisions on reactor restarts. 

“On safety checks, I have said that this should not be influenced by any timing or other conditions,” Edano told a news conference. 

The poll of 21 mayors and 13 governors whose localities host Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors showed that nine mayors were willing to approve restarts on condition of added safety assurances or steps. Eight mayors were undecided but also want similar steps. Six mayors, including four of the above, cited a thorough probe of the causes of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Fukushima plant as a precondition for restarts.

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