In what is seen as the very last approval needed for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to go ahead with decision to restart two suspended nuclear reactors, a panel of scientists have reported that the facility meets the safety requirements to return to operation. Located in the western Fukui Prefecture, the Oi nuclear plant has two reactors that Noda announced on Friday afternoon he intends to reactivate. After relocating to a different site due to anti-nuclear protesters, the group of 12 scientists that were appointed by the Fukui governor met on Sunday afternoon to present a document reporting the safety of the Oi plant.
Despite as much as 70% of the public stating their opposition to a return to nuclear power, on June 8th, Prime Minister Noda stated that the restart of the reactors was necessary for the “survival of society.” He says that he made his decision on the basis of protecting jobs and the Japanese economy, in addition to preventing expected power shortages this summer. Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), the utility that operates the Oi facility, has said that without any reliance on nuclear power, there would be energy shortages in the western Kansai region as high as 15%.
While Noda and the central government are legally not required to get consent from local leaders in the decision over the use of nuclear reactors, Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa was the last public figure standing in opposition at this point, and the Prime Minister stated he wanted to gain his understanding on the matter. The panel of scientists were tasked by Nishikawa with investigating the safety of the nuclear plant, and new implementations made by KEPCO in the case of another devastating earthquake or tsunami. The panel stated on Sunday that the safety measures were satisfactory, and they were confident that there would not be a repeat of last year’s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.