Japan earthquake rekindles concerns over Kishida’s drive to restart idle nuclear power plants | world news

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TOKYO (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on Wednesday night has reignited public concerns about the country’s nuclear power, in a challenge to those who have advocated restarting idle plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

No abnormalities were reported at the nuclear power plants, although authorities previously said a fire alarm was triggered at a turbine building at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was crippled during the earthquake and tsunami. of 2011.

This disaster crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant and killed nearly 16,000 people.

On the 11th anniversary of that earthquake earlier this month, some ruling party lawmakers urged the government to speed up the restart of nuclear power plants still shut down for safety reasons.

Public confidence, however, has yet to be fully restored, posing challenges to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s drive to restart idle Japanese factories.

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An annual poll by Asahi Newspaper in February showed 47% of respondents opposed taking over Japan’s nuclear reactors, while 38% supported, although that gap has narrowed in recent years.

Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former deputy chairman of the Cabinet Office’s Atomic Energy Commission, said poor communication with the public remained a problem for Japan compared to efforts by the United States and France.

“There are no good channels of communication between industry, regulators and the local public,” Suzuki, a professor at Nagasaki University, told Reuters, calling for a legal regime to provide tools for mutual communication.

In the aftermath of 2011, Japan established stricter safety standards and enhanced regulation with an independent supervisor of the nuclear power industry. The anti-tsunami barrier and the anti-tide gates are now mandatory, as is the protection of the emergency generators to prevent any cooling of the reactor core.

The power of nuclear power plants fell to almost zero in 2014 following the Fukushima disaster, but now accounts for around 3% of total energy production. The government wants to increase this figure to 20%-22% by 2030.

Only six reactors are currently operating, compared to 54 before the Fukushima disaster. Many more are still going through a license renewal process under stricter security standards.

“Nuclear power plants are no longer necessarily a stable source of energy. If an earthquake occurs, there is a risk that it will have to be stopped,” Suzuki said.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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