DrMarty | June 3, 2012 at 05:26 amby
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Within the past week there has been a clear shift in Japan towards reopening shutdown nuclear reactors as the critical summer months approach. With all the reactors shut electric power will be critically short over the entire country, but the Kansai region is the worse with shortages of as much as 15 percent expected.
Two reactors in this region, the Oi Nos. 3 and 4, they have completed maintenance and performed all safety and reliability tests successfully. They've just awaited approval to restart from local authorities, who have an unofficial but very real veto power over their operation. Until just recently, that approval was lacking because of local officials' political fears.
Most especially, the mayor of nearby Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, was a major block. Hashimoto is a young, brash, "anti-establishment" politician, who even before Fukushima, was loudly anti-nuclear. Hashimoto has plenty of clout as mayor of Japan's third largest city, but he is far more important and dangerous that just that; he out polls the Prime Minister by about 3 to 1, and is in the process of forming a nationwide, ultra-nationalist party.
But Thursday, in a surprise press conference reversed his stance. "If we absolutely need them this summer" to prevent power shortages, "I think we need to accept a restart," he said in explaining his reversal. His decision is attributed to fear of the backlash from blackouts, work stoppages, and further hollowing out of local industry as plants are relocated out of Japan.
Many other local leaders soon after gave their approvals. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda responded, "We are seeing some understanding from the local governments concerned. Ultimately, I'll make the final decision on my own responsibility."
It still remains for the government to get some additional approvals, and it is not clear when a restart announcement can be made, but the tide has turned.
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