The majority of Japanese towns and cities hosting nuclear plants said they would agree to the reactors being restarted if the government guaranteed the safety of the facilities, a survey said yesterday.
All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors remain closed for safety checks following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and must get the blessing of a new regulator before being restarted.
Despite the Fukushima Dai-ichi crisis, 54 percent of the 135 mayors of communities located near nuclear plants said they would accept the restart of the reactors, according to the survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Only 18 percent said they would not support reactor restarts, while 28 percent refrained from clarifying their position, the Yomiuri said.
The results run contrary to public opposition to reactor restarts, as the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear meltdown has fueled fear of nuclear power in Japan.
The survey outcome reflects the harsh economic reality in the rural communities hosting nuclear facilities, which are usually major employers in the areas that often have no other industries, the Yomiuri said.
Fukushima Dai-ichi’s crippled reactors went through meltdowns and explosions that sent radioactive materials in the surrounding areas, which is likely to be unfit for human activities for decades.
While tens of thousands of local residents remain evacuated from their homes, the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co expect to spend more than 30 years decommissioning the Fukushima Dai-chi reactors.
However, the Yomiuri survey results may help Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to power after his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a landslide victory in last month’s elections. Abe has voiced his support for nuclear energy and promised an agenda to rebuild the nation’s sluggish economy.
Critics have said his LDP was partly responsible for the extent of the Fukushima Dai-ichi catastrophe because of a culture of complicity during its more than five-decade rule.
It would also be a sharp policy reversal from the previous government led by former Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, who pledged to gradually end nuclear energy, in line with public opinion expressed repeatedly in surveys.
The majority of the public have called for the end of or a significant reduction in nuclear plants.