Assurances Friday by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and key ministers that two idled reactors are safe to restart has drawn fire from the public that the government is moving way too quickly to bring atomic power plants back online, given the disastrous meltdowns last year at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The safety declaration for the two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s power plant in the town of Oi in Fukui Prefecture was issued after Noda and three ministers scrambled to cobble together extra safety standards for the reactors in just three days. The quartet then simply announced the reactors had cleared the new criteria just a week later — on the same day that a suspected North Korean missile was launched.
That sequence of events has raised skepticism that the Noda administration may be rushing to fire up Oi’s reactors by May 5, when the only reactor still up and running will be closed for a mandatory checkup.
The reactors in question, units 3 and 4, were idled for routine checkups and sit on the coast of the Sea of Japan, looking over Wakasa Bay. To the southeast, in adjacent Shiga Prefecture, is Lake Biwa, a major source of drinking water for western Japan.
But some of the government-approved safety measures Kepco promised will take years to complete. This includes the installation of filtered venting equipment in the reactors to suppress the escape of radioactive material into the atmosphere when acting to prevent explosions. The Oi facility currently lacks such venting facilities but has a different design that apparently gives it a greater capacity to avoid such an emergency.