Japan approves two reactor restarts
Japan has approved the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors despite mass public opposition.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the government's decision at a meeting with key ministers, giving the go-ahead to two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co at Ohi in western Japan.
The decision, despite public concerns over safety after the big earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant, could open the door to more restarts among Japan's
50 nuclear power reactors.
"There is no such thing as a perfect score when it comes to disaster prevention steps," Trade Minister Yukio Edano told a news conference after the announcement.
"But, based on what we learned from the Fukushima accident, those measures that need to be taken urgently have been addressed, and the level of safety has been
considerably enhanced (at the Ohi plant)," he said.
The push to restart the two Ohi reactors, before a potential summer power crunch, also underscores the premier's eagerness to win backing from businesses worried about
high electricity costs that could push factories offshore. Kansai electric says it will take six weeks to get both reactors running fully.
But the decision risks a backlash from a public deeply concerned about nuclear safety. As many as 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside Noda's office on Friday night
amid a heavy police presence to denounce the restarts, urging the premier to step down and shouting "Lives matter more than the economy."
"Prime Minister Noda's rushed, dangerous approval of the Ohi nuclear power plant restart ignores expert safety advice and public outcry, and needlessly risks the
health of Japan's environment, its people and its economy," environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement.