JAPAN | Saga town mayor approves restart of Genkai nuclear reactors

Posted on July 4, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | July 4, 2011

In this file photo, the Genkai nuclear power plant, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seen in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 7, 2009. (Mainichi)

SAGA (Kyodo) — Hideo Kishimoto, mayor of Genkai, Saga Prefecture, approved Monday the resumption of two suspended reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant.

The mayor’s decision, conveyed to Kyushu Electric Power Co. President Toshio Manabe in a meeting, makes Genkai the first municipality hosting a nuclear power plant to approve restarting reactors following regular inspections since the March earthquake-tsunami disaster and subsequent nuclear crisis.

Attention now turns to whether Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa will also agree to the resumption. Furukawa has said he will make a final decision in mid-July.

Following Kishimoto’s decision, Furukawa told reporters, “If none of the municipalities hosting a nuclear plant (agrees to) restart reactors, all plants will be suspended. The prefectural assembly and prime minister’s decisions are important (for his decision).”

Furukawa has already shown his intention to give approval during a meeting with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda in late June, but he wants to meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan before he finalizes his decision.

Manabe indicated after the meeting with the mayor that Kyushu Electric will restart the reactors as soon as Furukawa gives approval and move on to commercial operations about two weeks after the resumption.

“The safety (of the reactors) has been secured by urgent safety measures (taken after the disaster). The town assembly also agreed to restart the reactors,” said Kishimoto, telling Manabe to avoid human errors in plant operations by taking further safety steps.

“Stable supply of electricity is necessary for Japanese society. I hope (my decision will) have a positive effect on (resumption at) other plants,” the mayor said.

Manabe said, “I really appreciate the town’s decision.”

The approval of local municipalities is not legally required to restart the reactors, but Kyushu Electric nevertheless sought the green light from Genkai.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano also welcomed the decision of the Genkai mayor.

“I take it positively as indicating a certain degree of support (for resumption),” Edano told a press conference, emphasizing that the government will continue to tell local municipalities and residents that the reactors are safe. But he did not make it clear whether Kan will meet with the Saga governor.

Meanwhile, a few members of an antinuclear group visited the Genkai town office to protest the mayor’s decision. Tsuneyuki Taguchi, a 59-year-old farmer who lives 10 kilometers from the Genkai plant said, “The discussion (over resumption) is still underway in neighboring municipalities and I cannot accept Genkai’s decision.”

Manabe visited Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, and met with Deputy Mayor Masaaki Seto, informing him of the Genkai mayor’s decision. Seto said, “At the moment, I am still cautious about resumption.”

Two of the Genkai plant’s four reactors, the Nos. 2 and 3 units, are currently shut down for regular checks. Their restart was postponed in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

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