More than half of the communities in Japan that host nuclear power plants are in support of reactors being restarted as long as their safety is assured by the government, a newspaper survey says.
The ‘Yomiuri Shimbun’ survey, published yesterday, shows that 54 percent of the 135 communities hosting nuclear plants would approve of restarts. The newspaper said 28 percent of the respondents did not express a position, while only 18 percent said they would not support the restart of nuclear units.
When asked to choose conditions for restarting nuclear reactors – a question for which multiple responses were allowed – 50 of the 66 mayors interviewed said central government should make a final decision, while 42 said the consent of local governments was called for. Thirty-seven said a consensus among local residents was necessary.
The newspaper said the percentage favour of reactor restarts suggests that the prolonged suspension of nuclear reactors has “seriously affected local economies” because nuclear power generation is a key local industry for many of the municipalities.
The survey was carried out in December 2012 among the mayors of 135 cities, towns and villages within a 30-kilometre radius of a nuclear plant, designated as priority areas for implementing measures to respond to a nuclear disaster.
The ‘Yomiuri Shimbun’ said Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) expanded the radius for priority areas – in which residents would be told to stay indoors or be evacuated outside the area to avoid health hazards in the event of a nuclear accident – from eight to 10 kilometres to 30 kilometres when it issued new disaster management guidelines in October 2012.
The expanded zones cover 135 municipalities in 21 prefectures, up from 45 municipalities in 15 prefectures under the previous guidelines.
The newspaper quoted one mayor as saying the operation of nuclear reactors should be resumed because it would help “rejuvenate industry”.
All but two of the country’s nuclear 50 commercial nuclear reactors remain offline after the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. All restarts must first be approved by the recently formed NRA.
Japan’s new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) prime minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time last week that his government will endorse the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Mr Abe said the Japanese people are worried about having sufficient electricity in the immediate future. He said parties that called for a shift away from nuclear energy were therefore “not trusted” in the recent election.