Sun, Feb 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Japanese towns still undecided on nuclear stress tests

STRESSED OUT:Officials hope the stress tests will help persuade the public that it is safe to restart some of the reactors and so avoid a power crunch

Reuters, TOKYO

Three Japanese towns would be willing to restart their nuclear reactors if they pass government stress tests, two were against the idea, but most were undecided, a newspaper survey suggested yesterday.

The stress tests are aimed at demonstrating that the reactors can withstand the scale of disaster that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant last year.

The Fukushima plant was struck by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, triggering reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks that caused mass evacuations and widespread contamination.

The three plants that might win approval to restart are the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric, the Takahama nuclear power plant operated by Kansai Electric and Kyushu Electric’s Genkai nuclear power plant, the Sankei Shinbun said.

Two local governments said they rejected the tests and 24 said they were undecided, according to the survey, a sign that even UN experts’ approval of the tests is not enough to dispel deep-rooted mistrust of the country’s nuclear policy.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday gave its backing to the stress tests, which are computer simulations that evaluate a nuclear reactor’s resilience to disasters.

Before March 11, nuclear power provided about a third of Japan’s electricity needs. Now only three out of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are in operation after being damaged or taken off-line for checks.

The government hopes the stress tests will help persuade a wary public that it is safe to restart some of the reactors and avoid an economically crippling power crunch during the peak summer season.

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