After the last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the country is now moving closer to restarting the nuclear reactors for the first time since the calamity disaster. Under a law approved by parliament’s lower house the new nuclear regulator will be set up by the country around September 2012. One reactor was started just the other day.
Nuclear power supplied almost a third of Japan’s electricity before Fukushima but all of the 50 workable reactors of the country have gone offline because of safety concerns and for maintenance. The disaster in Fukushima has brought a rough attention on the cozy ties between politicians, regulators, and utilities. But despite of the continuing strong public opposition to nuclear power, the government has been pushing for the restart of reactors because they believe that nuclear energy is important to the economy of Japan.
The new regulatory commission could revise a rule limiting the life of reactors to 40 years under a deal ending months of arguing by ruling and oppositions parties. The new law would create five members of independent nuclear regulatory commission and a nuclear regulatory agency to handle the work of the heavily-criticized Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of trade ministry and the oversight commission of the cabinet. This law is expected to be approved by the upper house.
Mayor Shinobu Tokioka has approved the plan for restarting two reactors in the western town of Ohi because he is concerned about possible power shortages and its impact on the domestic economy. Local consent is not required for restarting the reactors but the government is asking for support because of the sensitivity of the issue.