TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said late Friday that he wanted to restart nuclear power stations for the first time since last year’s Fukushima catastrophe.
“It is my judgment that reactors 3 and 4 of the Oi nuclear power plant should return to the grid for the good of the people,” the premier told a press conference.
Opponents of nuclear power were critical of the decision.
“This shows how deeply the government is embedded in the pocket of the nuclear industry,” said Junichi Sato, the head of Greenpeace in Japan.
Since early May, all of Japan’s 50 operable nuclear reactors have been switched off, leaving the nation without nuclear-generated electricity for the first time in decades. Instead, the country is relying on thermal energy.
The government and nuclear industry have warned increasingly of power cuts in the industrial region of Kansai, which includes the city of Osaka. As a result, provincial governors have dropped their opposition to resuming the Oi reactors.
Fukui province Governor Issei Nishikawa had called on Noda to convince the public of the necessity to restart the nuclear plant, before the province was called upon to approve the step.
On Friday Noda warned that “Japanese society will face a standstill” if it does not revert to generating nuclear power — which made up around
30 percent of the country’s energy mix before an earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.
Should Nishikawa be happy with Noda’s statement — as is expected — he will likely give the nod next week for Oi’s reactors to restart.
Nuclear opponents, who demonstrated in front of the government headquarters, argued that the decision affected the health and safety of millions of people. Sato insisted that experts, not politicians, should make the decision.
Osaka’s mayor, Toru Hashimoto, who had been one of the strongest opponents, offered as a compromise that Oi’s reactors could resume operations in the summer months alone, when air conditioning units consume large amounts of energy. But Noda said such an intermittent resumption was not enough.