Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, who is also in charge of nuclear disaster management, met with leaders in Japan’s western Kansai region on Saturday to formally request they accept the central government’s decision to restart the nuclear reactors in Oi, Fukui prefecture. The central government has long been seeking the support of those in the Kansai region, hoping to restart the reactor in time to combat energy shortages during this summer’s high temperatures. Unfortunately for the central government, they once again denied their support on the grounds of safety.
Among those meeting with Hosono included Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa, and Shinobu Tokioka, mayor of the town of Oi. While the government argued that the reactor’s restart is necessary to prevent widespread power outages this summer, they also pointed out that the economy of Fukui prefecture is almost exclusively dependent on the nuclear facility’s operation. However, the Kansai leaders stated that government officials should not be the ones making decisions on whether the reactors are safe to start or not; those decisions should be left for experts to decide. They also called for the creation of a nuclear regulatory agency that should be independent of the government.
Osaka’s Hashimoto said that this new agency should be the only one in charge of putting together safety standards and determining if reactors meet them. He added that even if reactors are cleared for restart, they should only be used when the demand for energy truly requires it. Japan has been without nuclear power since May 5th, when the nation’s last reactor went into suspension for maintenance and safety checks following the meltdown crisis after last year’s earthquake and tsunami disasters in March.