Prospective customers look at electric fans on display at an electrical appliance retailer in Tokyo. Pic: AP.

A nervous government and a reluctant citizenry keep nuclear power on hold, writes Asia Sentinel’s Todd Crowell

For the first time since the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi three years ago, Japan faces a summer without the prospect of electricity from nuclear power plants. This is despite the atomic regulator’s decision July 16 to affirm the safety of two reactors in the far western corner of the country.

As was widely expected, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officially affirmed that the Sendai plants, owned and operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Company, conformed to the revised set of safety requirements that were adopted in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

That doesn’t mean that the two units will go on line anytime soon. In the first place, the report is in draft form and won’t be confirmed for a month following public hearings, likely to be very contentious. Then there follows a two-month inspection of the hardware, leading to a possible restart in October.

That’s too late to meet summer’s peak demand, meaning Japanese face another summer of setsuden (the Japanese word for energy conservation). The lack of nuclear power’s contribution is felt most acutely in the western part of the country which was most dependent on nuclear power.

Last summer, a special dispensation from the national government allowed two units of the Kansai Electric Power Co. in Fukui prefecture to stay on line until September, when the hottest parts of the summer had passed. This year no reactors will be operating until the autumn at the earliest.

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