MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) — The government of Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture has finalized the approval for the restart of two reactors at Sendai atomic power station Friday, which is the first nuclear plant relaunch since the 2011 Fukushima incident.
The plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co, will again generate electricity next year, once operation checks have been completed, as reported by Bangkok Post. The now-stalled nuclear power industry of Japan provided up to 30% of Japan’s energy before the Fukushima incident, which had caused severe environmentalist protests, rendering all atomic reactors to halt soon thereafter. There are 48 atomic power stations in Japan.
The Sendai atomic station restart was decided by the local government, as the host town of Satsumasendai has already voted in approval. The prefectural assembly of Kagoshima has voted today in favor of the restart.
"I have decided that it is unavoidable to restart the No. 1 and No. 2 Sendai nuclear reactors," Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito said today, as reported by Reuters. "I have said that assuring safety is a prerequisite and that the government must ensure safety and publicly explain it thoroughly to residents," he added.
The current government of PM Shinzo Abe has long planned to restart the nuclear power industry. Abe argued that halting the reactors has damaged the nation’s economy by triggering severe dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels. Previously this year the Abe cabinet announced its energy plan, which included the restart of nuclear plants, sparking public concern on environmental grounds.
Today’s Kagoshima prefectural assembly vote was marred by civil protest as local citizens gathered outside the legislative chamber holding signs that read “NO restart”. Reportedly, the noise of the crowd was louder that the final vote inside the building of the prefectural assembly.
According to the Abe cabinet’s ruling, the decision to restart reactors is in the hands of the regional governments. Upon hearing Kagoshima’s news today, Industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa said the government in Tokyo "really appreciates that Kagoshima prefecture is doing so many things" for restarting the reactors, as reported by Bangkok post. More restarts throughout Japan may follow soon.
One of the most important factors that triggered the move to restart atomic power generation is the depreciating yen caused by unprecedented monetary easing measures, undertaken by the Bank of Japan in an attempt to revive sluggish growth. The Abe cabinet argues that restarting atomic power stations will contribute to industrial growth and improve the nation’s current account balance, as energy imports will decrease.
Public opinion is divided regarding the restart. While the region’s residents enjoy the social and economic benefits of the nuclear power plants operating nearby, most of people living at a farther distance fear that incidents like the Fukushima meltdown may happen again as natural cataclysms are common in Japan.
"They know that their communities are under direct radiation threat even though they are many kilometers from the Sendai reactors, and it is their lives and livelihoods at risk," Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan said, as reported by Bangkok Post.
The Fukushima Daiichi incident was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since 1986’s Chernobyl accident in Ukraine. On March 11, 2011, a meltdown of three of the Fukushima plant’s six reactors caused nuclear contamination of land and water around the site, displacing about 300,000 people. No deaths were reported as a result of radiation exposure, yet the earthquake and tsunami that had triggered the meltdown left 15,884 causalities.