Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has announced his decision to restart two nuclear reactors in western Japan. As I noted in this blog a month ago, all of Japan’s nuclear reactors are offline. Before the Fukushima meltdown, 30% of the nation’s electricity came from uranium fission reactors.
As a result of these shutdowns, there is a genuine shortage of generating capacity in Japan still. The Wall Street Journal notes, “the area serviced by the Oi plant, which includes the city of Osaka, could face [electricity] shortfalls of up to 18%.” Conservation in Japan is certainly more wide-spread than before the meltdown, but the BBC notes “last month, the government asked businesses and households in parts of the country to cut electricity usage by up to 15% to avoid possible blackouts.”
Noda seems to have been in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation–so he decided “damn it, I will.” While the country faces blackouts as the summer heat visits Japan, polls show that 70% of Japanese voters would like to abandon nuclear power all together (although some prefer it to be phased out rather than dropping it all at once).
So, he stated publicly, “Cheap and stable electricity is vital. If all the reactors that previously provided 30 percent of Japan’s electricity supply are halted, or kept idle, Japanese society cannot survive.” Shades of Hirohito asking the Japanese to “bear the unbearable.”
Reuters added Noda argued that there remains “the possibility that more companies would shift output offshore and jobs would be lost” if the power supply remained dodgy. Consequently, “[i]t is my decision that Ohi reactors No.3 and No.4 should be restarted to protect the people’s livelihoods,” he said.
The PM’s remarks follow pressure from Governor. Issei Nishikawa of Fukui prefecture, home of the Oi reactors, who has insisted Mr. Noda make a public stand on the restart issue..This is not the final decision, however. Officially, the restart order needs to be made in a committee composed of Mr. Noda and three of his cabinet members. This decision could come as early as next week, and the restart could technically begin the very next day although the startup process will take about six weeks to complete.