Japan Moves Closer to Restarting First Nuclear Reactors Since Tsunami-Driven Meltdowns

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"The nuclear reactor restarts would mark a controversial victory for the central government, which has spent months arguing that Japan needs nuclear power to sustain its fragile economy."

The Washington Post, Chico Harlan

Japan is on the verge of returning to atomic power after a mayor consented Thursday to the proposed restart of a pair of reactors idled in the wake of last year's nuclear accident.

The restart could come as soon as this weekend, Japanese media reported. It would mark a controversial victory for the central government, which has spent months arguing that Japan needs nuclear power to sustain its fragile economy.

Before the tsunami-triggered crisis, a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that displaced about 100,000 people, Japan was among the world's most nuclear-reliant countries. But its 50 working reactors have steadily come offline as authorities in host communities blocked efforts to restart them after they were shut down for routine maintenance tests or because of safety concerns.

That resistance is finally easing, apparently in large part because the government forecasts severe summer energy shortages for some regions if the country remains nuclear-free, as it has been for the past six weeks. With the mayor's sign-off, only a series of formalities stand in the way of a restart. The regional governor must give his approval, and he has already signaled his willingness to do so. Then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda must give the final authorization, which could happen as early as Saturday, according to Japanese media.

"This is not only about summer electricity supply and demand in the short term," Noda said in arguing for the restart. "If our dependency on fossil fuels is increased and electricity prices rise sharply, this would affect retail shops and small- and medium-size enterprises that are just managing to stay afloat, as well as households. This would accelerate the hollowing out of industry and lead to a loss of places for employment.". . .View Full Article

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