On May 29, the Japanese Prime Minister Noda has announced his decision to order the restart two nuclear reactors in the town of Ohi in the prefecture of Fukui in Western Japan. He also claimed that nuclear energy will remain an important source of energy for Japan also in the future, thereby reconfirming Japans nuclear energy policy. Noda even increased political pressure in a televised broadcast to the nation on June 11 by saying: No nuclear power – no Japan: "Japanese society cannot survive" without restarting Ohi reactors 3 and 4.
Prime Minister Noda claimed on May 29, that the central government is winning the understanding of local authorities. On June 1 over a 1,000 people demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office. A few days later 4,000 people marched in Tokyo against the restart and more than 7.5 million Japanese people signed a petition for a nuclear-free Japan. A call for international solidarity and pressure on the Japanese government by sending faxes to the local Japanese embassies, not to restart nuclear reactors comes from the large anti-nuclear organizations CNIC, FoE Japan, Green Action, No Nukes Asia Forum, Peace Boat and Shut Tomari.
On June 12, a group of 134 residents in eight central and western prefectures filed a lawsuit demanding that the Japanese government order a halt restart of operations of Ohi 3 & 4, claiming that the reactors have not even met existing quake-resistance standards that are now under review.
Pressure to okay restart
In a meeting in April, Prime Minister Noda and Cabinet ministers concerned, confirmed the safety of the Ohi reactors and concluded that restarting the reactors is appropriate, but the reactivation process came to a standstill. Then things took a turn: During a meeting on May 30 of the Union of Kansai Governments, nuclear disaster management minister Goshi Hosono reaffirmed the reactors' safety and vowed to create a special monitoring system that would see a senior vice industry minister and other government officials stationed at the Ohi plant.
In response, the Union of Kansai Governments issued a statement demanding the restart of the reactors be only a "limited" measure, apparently indicating the union would accept the reactivation if the reactors operate during the summer only. However, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa vehemently opposes Osaka’s Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who previously led the opposition to restarting the reactors, saying that his suggestion to run the reactors only in the summer "arbitrary and opportunistic, and [his opinion] is hardly worth discussing.” Noda ruled out temporary restart, too.
Over the past few months, intense lobbying of political leaders by Kansai Electric Power Co. and threats by major corporate supporters to relocate outside the region were cited by the Union of Kansai Governments as reasons for caving in. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto admitted defeat but said he had done all he could as mayor. “The pressure from Kansai’s corporate leaders to restart the reactors was really strong,” said Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who had been one of the staunchest opponents of the restart. “Kepco put a lot of pressure on companies in the Kansai region, telling them that without the Oi reactors, they would face rolling blackouts. Those firms, in turn, pressured Kansai-area politicians, saying that if there were blackouts they would have to relocate outside the Kansai region,” according to Shigeaki Koga, a senior member of a committee appointed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to look into the city’s energy strategy.
More than 30 percent of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan have expressed opposition to the central governments push to restart two nuclear reactors. A letter of opposition signed by 117 DPJ members, including former party leaders Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, was submitted to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday, urging him to exercise “greater caution”. “Most of the public are of the opinion that we should overcome this summer’s energy needs through conservation and flexibility,” the petition said, adding that the party remains split on the issue.
The prime minister and three cabinet members with final say on the restart may give the go-ahead as early as June 16, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing unnamed officials. Including inspection and maintenance, it will take about 1-1/2 months for the two reactors at the Ohi plant to operate at full capacity.
According to a June 12, editorial of the Mainichi newspaper, Noda’s statements that "the livelihoods and daily lives of the Japanese people cannot be sustained if reactors are only restarted for the summer," and "from the energy security point of view, nuclear power is very important”, leave true national debate on this issue behind in the dust.
The newspaper continued by saying that of course lives could be at stake if Japan is hit with sudden blackouts from a lack of electricity and industry will also be affected, however, it is known for more than a year that the country needs measures to deal with summer power shortfalls, and both the government and Kansai Electric have been negligent in developing those measures. “And though these parties ought to be reflecting on and apologizing for their negligence, all we see them doing is fanning the flames of anxiety.”
Concluding: “there is a major push on now to save electricity, cut down on peak usage, and create flexibility in the power system. To force the restart of the Ohi plant reactors even amid all these efforts would be to crush the fragile bud of energy reform now growing in society.”
Sources: The Daily Yomiuri, 1 June 2012 / Reuters, 1 June 2012 / Enformable, 7 June 2012 / Bellona Foundation, 11 June 2012 / International Business Times, 11 June 2012 / Mainichi, 12 June 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan