Nuclear Power Station image from Shutterstock

Despite shutting down all their nuclear plants last month in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan has hinted that its relationship with nuclear power may not be completely over. The mayor of one town in the Fukui prefecture is making moves to restart two of its reactors, citing concerns over energy shortages and the impact of closures on the local economy — including the mayor’s own company.

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It looked like nuclear power’s fate in Japan had been sealed when on 5th May, the Hokkaido reactor became the last of 50 working reactors to be shut down. However now, Shinobu Tokioka, the mayor of Oi, a town in Fukui prefecture, has said he will restart two of his region’s reactors after “being persuaded to support the restart after the prefecture’s nuclear safety commission said that necessary safety measures had been put in place”.

While Mayor Tokioka has said his decision came about because he “was concerned about possible power shortages and the impact on the local economy if the plant remained closed”, it should be noted that he is also the head of a company that supplies pipes and other materials to the plant.

The Fukui prefecture is part of Japan’s “nuclear alley” which is populated with 13 reactors. The final decision is expected to be made this Saturday by Japanese prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda. If he decides that the national nuclear power network will be turned back on, then it is not expected to reach full output until the end of July.

Power shortages have been a major concern in the country with Kansai Electric Power stating that without the Oi reactors, the area would suffer power shortages of around 15% over the next three months.  The local economy would also take a hit as Kansai (which has a population of 24 million people and an economy the size of Australia’s), is still expected to see regular power cuts over the next few months.

Prime Minister Noda has been hinting about a possible nuclear U-turn over the past wee by saying that the shutdown of the coutnry’s nuclear plants “would put Japan’s national survival at risk.”

“Cheap and stable electricity is vital,” he said in a televised speech. “If all the reactors that previously provided 30% of Japan’s electricity supply are halted, or kept idle, Japanese society cannot survive.”

It is a difficult Catch-22 situation. See the Japanese economy crumble from a lack of power or suffer another potential Fukushima in the future.

+ Kansai Electric Power

via The Guardian