大飯再稼働決定 着実な発電開始に万全を期せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 18, 2012)
Restart remaining N-reactors to prevent power shortages
大飯再稼働決定 着実な発電開始に万全を期せ(6月17日付・読売社説)

The government has decided to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

"The [Oi] reactors will be reactivated--this is the government's final decision. We'll take further steps toward restoring public trust in nuclear administration," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a meeting with ministers in charge of the nation's nuclear policy on Saturday.

We want to praise the prime minister highly for taking the responsibility of restarting the nuclear reactors to prevent the nation from facing a power crisis.

The government has confirmed the safety of the Oi reactors based on its criteria for restarting suspended nuclear reactors. It took more than a year for the government to draw up the criteria, taking into account the lessons learned from the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Noda made the restart decision also after obtaining approval from the heads of Fukui Prefecture and the town of Oi.


Haste makes mistakes

However, the crucial moment has yet to come. It will take about six weeks for the Oi power plant's Nos. 3 and 4 reactors to fully resume operations. Preparatory work needs to be conducted thoroughly, as the reactors were suspended for a longer period than they would have been for ordinary periodic checkups.

It would be ideal if the restart of the nuclear reactors was in time for the nation's hottest season, when electricity consumption peaks, but doing things in haste often causes trouble. We urge KEPCO to work carefully and make thorough preparations to restart the Oi reactors.

Needless to say, ensuring the safety of the nuclear reactors should be the top priority. If the power company overemphasizes keeping to its schedule, the pressure may lead to human errors. The government and the utility should prepare for a scenario in which the restart of the reactors falls behind schedule and continue implementing measures against possible power shortages for the time being.

From July 2, KEPCO will ask its customers to cut power use by at least 15 percent from the same period in 2010. Companies are now busy making plans to comply with the request, such as increasing the amount of electricity produced by their in-house power generators and shifting the operation times of their factories.

To avoid discouraging the companies' efforts, the power company should not reduce the 15 percent reduction target until the operations of the Oi reactors are fully stabilized.

Even if the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors begin operating smoothly, the power supply in the Kansai region will remain precarious. The nation has become more dependent on thermal power plants, but they now face higher risks of mechanical trouble due to overuse. The government and the utility should stay vigilant against possible power failures.


Overreliance on thermal power

Even if the nation is able to avoid power shortages this summer, important problems will remain unresolved.

If most of the nation's nuclear reactors remain idle, power companies have to pay extra fuel costs for thermal power plants, estimated at about 3 trillion yen a year. In addition to Tokyo Electric Power Co., which plans to raise electricity charges for households this summer, it will be unavoidable for other electric companies to raise their fees if the situation continues. The price hike may accelerate the nation's economic downturn, especially the trend of domestic companies moving their production bases abroad.

The government has a pressing need to restart the other suspended nuclear reactors--after confirming their safety--to resolve the nationwide power shortages.

However, due to a delay in establishing a new administrative body in charge of regulating nuclear power, the government's efforts to restart suspended nuclear reactors have virtually stopped.

A bill to establish the nuclear regulatory committee is expected to pass the Diet soon, but more time will be wasted if the government takes too long to appoint committee members. The government should launch the regulatory committee as soon as possible and put evaluations for restarting the suspended nuclear reactors on track.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2012)
(2012年6月17日01時48分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-19 07:36 | 英字新聞

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