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Monday, April 16, 2012

No More Nukes?!

Operations at all of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants will be suspended "for a moment" starting on May 6, 2012 Japan's Trade Minister Edano Yukio (surname first) said in a speech in Tokushima-shi (Tokushima City), the capital of Tokushima-ken (Tokushima Prefecture) on Shikoku Island in south west Japan on April 15, 2012.

While not confirmed, the media seems to believe that his cryptic comment of "for a moment" suggests the government will be unable to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi plant in Fukui-ken (Fukui Prefecture in Western Japan) by May 5, 2012.

This is apparently a drop dead date for the nuclear industry as May 5 is when the Tomari nuclear power plant (see photo above) - the only nuclear power plant in Hokkaidō in the north of Japan will go offline for a regular inspection. That means the country will be without nuclear power - surely a sign of victory for the anti-nuclear crowd.

For reference, the Tomari plant is about 60 kilometers north of the Fukushima reactors.

All 54 reactors in Japan except for No. 3 at the Tomari plant have been taken offline for scheduled checkups. They have stayed offline because operators have been unable to overcome safety concerns sparked by the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant last year.

This is a good thing. Make sure all the facilities pass inspection before starting them up - if that is what Japan wants to do. If it can't pass the inspections - shut'em down. It's better than another nuclear disaster.

The government had been trying to restart the Oi reactors before the shutdown of the last reactor at Tomari, apparently fearing that the political hurdles to restart them will be higher if all 54 are stopped at once -meaning that it might show that Japan could get along without nuclear power as a viable form of electrical power generation.

Anti-nuclear activists have, of course, said that Japan does not need nuclear, while Japan and its power utilities have said that power shortages will occur if all the units are stopped.

Edano visited Fukui Saturday to assure Governor Nishikawa Issei (surname first) that the Oi reactors are safe to restart and there is no possibility of a meltdown. But, because Nishikawa did not immediately consent to the request, it apparently caused Edano to conclude that the chance of firing up the Oi reactors before May 5 is remote.

It's all just supposition at this time. Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife thinks that this is simple political gamesmanship. Nishikawa obviously is correct in not immediately saying okay to fire up the reactors until he gets all of the facts - regardless of Edano's 'assurances'. We've all seen assurances before, and it's not always pretty.

As well... this is Japan. No one likes to say 'No' to anyone, as the country has 47 ways of saying "maybe". But since no 'maybe' or 'no' were given or even a 'yes', everyone is panicking in the nuclear industry. Just let the people involved examine the facts first, rather than just blindly saying 'Sure, we trust you - fire up the nuclear reactors."

By Andrew Joseph

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