Sunday, July 1, 2012

Washington Post on Ooi Nuke Plant Restart: Noda’s Restart Announcement Formented Public Opposition

Surprisingly good coverage (I think) from a newspaper who only carried a short AP article when reporting on the June 29 protest in Tokyo.

From Washington Post (7/1/2012; emphasis is mine):

First nuclear reactor to go back online since Japan disaster met with protests

By Chico Harlan

TOKYO — Protesters this weekend thronged the wide streets in front of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, and across the country they gathered about a quarter-mile from the entrance of a nuclear plant. They shouted “No to the restart,” and parked cars in front of the plant’s access road, blocking workers from coming or going, according to Japanese media.

But the workers were already inside.

Sunday, at the Ohi nuclear facility along Japan’s western shoreline, those workers went through the technical steps to reboot a reactor, the first to come back online since last year’s massive nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi.

The restart at Ohi — with potentially more to follow — will avert dire power shortages and sustain the economy, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has told the nation. But the restart also has divided the country, staging an increasingly hostile showdown between the government and those doubtful about its atomic safety claims.

Some political experts thought Noda’s announcement two weeks ago about the restart of two reactors at Ohi — the No. 4 unit is scheduled to restart later this month — would quiet public opposition. Instead, Noda’s announcement fomented it, and social media-organized protests that once drew hundreds now draw thousands. A Friday rally in front of Noda’s office drew 17,000, according to police, though organizers put the number around 200,000.

The central government has so far given no indication that the public display will cause a rethink of its nuclear restart efforts. Wide-scale protests are rare in this country, where people traditionally comply with authority figures, and Noda, who is also pushing for a consumption tax increase, faces a backlash for his pro-nuclear stance.

In a Pew Research Center poll earlier this month, 70 percent of Japanese said they favor a reduction in the country’s reliance on nuclear power. The government, before calling for the restart, received approvals from local and regional officials near Ohi, a process that required months of persuasion.

Engineers at Ohi planned to pull out the control rods that prevent nuclear fission on Sunday evening. By Wednesday, according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, the 1,180-megawatt reactor will begin transmitting power.

Before the series of meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, which forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, Japan depended on its 54 reactors for roughly one-third of its energy. But in the wake of the accident, those reactors steadily went offline, either because of safety concerns or for routine maintenance checks. In early May, the final reactor in Hokkaido went offline and the country became briefly nuclear free.

Noda became a voice for the restart, and last month he said that a failure to restart the reactors would jeopardize life as Japanese knew it. The government forecasted energy shortages during the sweltering summer — nearly 15 percent in one region, known as Kansai, that had been particularly atomic-dependent. Japan picked reactors No. 3 and No. 4 at Ohi as the first to restart because they supplied the Kansai region and because they had already passed stress tests to gauge their response to disasters.

The restart comes at a time when policymakers here are planning the country’s energy future. The so-called Energy and Environment Council is debating three options: By 2030, nuclear power will account either for 20 to 25 percent of Japan’s total electricity share, 15 percent, or zero percent. The council is supposed to reach a decision in August, Japanese media have said.

Well, workers had to take a ferry boat to the plant. And "months of persuasion" is an obligatory tap dance, so to speak, to give the impression to the gullible public that it has been a hard decision. Washington Post should know, as it is the same in the US.

If the writer, who is based in Tokyo, had spoken with protesters anywhere in japan, the protesters would have told him that they'd rather have a rolling blackout or rationing than the restart of nuclear power plants.


Beppe said...

The writer should also have mentioned that the extent of the electricity shortages has been contested and that the so called stress tests are computer simulations carried out by the utility themselves, which did not publish the mathematical models used nor the input data (i.e. what kind of stress was simulated).

Anonymous said...

To Chico:

This is NOT just about nuclear safety. This is a a basic human rights issue. No person should be made to suffer the way the people from Fukushima have suffered.

We know nuclear plants will fail. The government and the industry know they will fail too. When they do fail, the event is too catastrophic.

The Japanese public knows this. And the overwhelming majority of the Japanese public is not of divided opinion. They don't want any more nuclear power in Japan. And no amount of persuasion about new safety measures is ever going to change that.

And nuclear is NOT necessary anymore, despite what the owners of the nuclear power plants and their paid-for politicians will say. There are options - computer controlled smart grid technology available today would make it possible to run a national power infrastructure WITHOUT traditional baseload power plants. (See Jacobson at Stanford Univ).

The real story here in Japan is that the government, against the overwhelming disapproval of the Japanese people, has restarted this power plant because the businesses that donate money to them have told them they want it restarted.

Post a Comment