--The Asahi Shimbun, May 31
EDITORIAL: Noda’s premature decision to restart Oi reactors

The Noda administration has effectively decided to restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear power plant.

The government concluded that it has obtained the understanding of the Union of Kansai Governments, which has been opposed to the restarts. The association on May 30 called on the government to make an “appropriate judgment” on the assumption that the reactivation is a “limited” response.

We have been opposed to restarting nuclear plants without addressing some important issues. There has been no significant progress in securing the safety of nuclear plants, and we have strong doubts about the Noda administration’s judgment.

In deciding whether to restart nuclear reactors, we believe it is most important to review safety standards and anti-disaster measures based on lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident. Crisis management measures need to be established to minimize damage from an unanticipated disaster.

More than anything, we have asked the government to draw up a road map for moving away from nuclear power and make a clear policy shift. Only a minimum number of nuclear plants required should be in operation.

However, the Noda administration has decided to restart the Oi reactors based on a political judgment, without evaluation by experts.
What it has done only amounts to a stopgap measure, namely introducing stress tests and having the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency compile provisional safety standards.

The government has not produced concrete measures to reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear power. People remain concerned that the government may be trying to bring nuclear reactors back online without meaningful debate.

We cannot understand why the Union of Kansai Governments, which has critically pointed out these problems, abruptly changed its stance on May 30.

At a meeting of the Union of Kansai Governments, nuclear power policy minister Goshi Hosono said, “We will examine (nuclear plants), including the Oi plant, under new safety standards after a new nuclear regulatory agency is set up.” He noted that the Diet has begun discussions on legislation to create the new agency.

If that is the case, the government should clearly state that it would keep the Oi plant running only this summer and shut it down again once power demand falls.

The government should also announce its policy to decommission aging reactors as well as those vulnerable to major earthquakes. Some examples include the Tsuruga No. 1 reactor and the Mihama No. 1 reactor, both of which started operations more than 40 years ago.

The reactivation of the Oi plant should not slacken efforts to have regional utilities supply power to each other or have companies and households save electricity.

There are good chances of power stations having problems, and the western part of Japan is expected to have far from enough electricity. It is important to continue experimenting with a wide-area operation of electricity grids and measures to curb power demand, partly for planning the nation’s future electric power policy.

The people were preparing themselves for a “summer without nuclear plants” following a third-party review of regional utilities’ electricity demand-supply forecasts. The people’s will should not be defied.

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-02 08:28 | 英字新聞

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