The Japanese government announced a plan to legally require TEPCO to seek local approval before restarting Fukushima Daini.
“The Japanese government is considering legislation to oblige Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to obtain approval from local governments if it applies for restarting its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, Jiji Press learned Friday. The legislation is also expected to stipulate that the plant be decommissioned if Tepco fails to win such approval and is unable to submit an application for its restart within three years after the law takes effect, sources said.”
This likely took many people aback as there has been no discussion of potentially restarting this plant for years. The prefecture assembly voted after the disaster that they would be against any reactor restarts within the prefecture. Since the region is still suffering significantly from the impact of the disaster it is obvious why there would be little support.
Fukushima Daini did not suffer meltdowns during the disaster in 2011 but it did struggle seriously with the loss of power and cooling. The reactors did reach a point of being near a decision to vent at least one of the reactors to reduce pressure. There have also been unofficial reports that one of the units may have a cracked containment structure. This additional stress on coolant system and containment structures along with inundation from the tsunami may have caused additional damage that could impact any future operation. This facility would require extensive examination before it could be declare somehow safe enough to operate. There is currently no mechanism for this kind of inspection on a damaged facility. There are also no improvements to attempt to prevent another tsunami hit on the plant.
The larger question related to this political move is why the government wants local approval. Is it a plan to make it harder for TEPCO to restart the facility or political cover to grease the wheels so they can restart the facility? The problem with local consent as we have seen over and over in Japan is that frequently local assemblies or mayors can be influenced by industry ties or personally benefit from the industry in some way. Elected officials that push against the nuclear industry’s wishes have found themselves run out of a job. The Japanese government wants TEPCO to be profitable so it can bear more of the cost of the disaster clean up. But would they be willing to do a direct insult to the people of Fukushima by restarting Fukushima Daini to do so?
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