The last domino has fallen today, as Shinobu Tokioka, the mayor of the town of Oi, in the western prefecture of Fukui, has given his approval to restart two of the reactors at the local nuclear power plant. After Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced his decision to restart the reactors on a live broadcast last week, all that was seen as left was getting approval from local leaders. While the central government doesn’t legally need to have the permission of prefectural leaders, along with their understanding, it was something called for by Noda.
Prime Minister Noda said his decision was based on the need to protect Japan’s economy and the livelihood of the people. While public opposition about the return to nuclear power remains strong, the Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), the utility company that operates the Oi power plant, and the central government are largely concerned with the fact that the western Kansai region would face energy shortages this summer as high as 15% without the use of any nuclear power. Now that Mayor Tokioka has made his decision, it is expected that Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa will meet with Noda to convey the acceptance of the restart plan.
Earlier in the week, a panel of scientist met with Fukui’s local leaders to explain that the power plant’s safety concerns had been addressed, and that they agreed with Prime Minister Noda’s decision to reactivate the nuclear facility. KEPCO itself has been eager to get Noda’s final word for the go-ahead, and spokesman Takahiro Senoo says that they wish to get started as soon as possible. It takes almost 20 days for each reactor to get up and running a full output, and with the expectation that Noda will give the order on Saturday, it is believed that the Oi nuclear plant will back in operation just before August.