Two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Ohi nuclear plant can be operated safely, Noda declared June 16 after meeting with three Cabinet ministers who share approval authority. The utility, which serves the $1 trillion economy of Japan's second-biggest urban region, said it would immediately begin work to start one reactor.
Noda's "under intense political pressure from the banks and the utilities" who want reactors restarted, said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Tokyo's Rikkyo University who focuses on energy policy. "They want to get those income streams back in operation."
Once the world's biggest nuclear power generator after the U.S. and France, Japan shut its last operating reactor on May 5. Kansai Electric said it aims to restart the Ohi No. 3 reactor in early July, and the No. 4 unit as early as mid-July.
Japan's utilities are running stress tests to assess whether reactors can withstand the earthquake and tsunami damaged that caused the meltdowns at Fukushima. Utilities have submitted reports on the first phase of testing on 22 reactors, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency website.
Further restarts will probably be delayed until after Japan's winter season, as a new regulatory panel will have to review stress-test results, the Nikkei newspaper said yesterday. Reactors at Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari plant, Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant, Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata facility and Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s Shika plant are likely the next to return to operation, the paper said.
David Fuller's view This is a smart economic move which can only help Japan's economy, which in addition to all of its long-term problems, has been additionally hampered by energy shortages.
It may also have a subtle influence on attitudes towards nuclear power in other countries. If France's new government is realistic about promoting GDP growth, it will have to shelve plans to phase out the nuclear reactors on which it depends.