The local city council of Satsuma-sendai approved the restart of the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima prefecture. 19 members approved, 4 opposed. The local approvals are not required by law but are being done to try to pretend the restart has some sort of public acceptance.
The prefecture government and the governor are also to be asked for restart permission. This process has become problematic in Japan for a number of reasons. The temporary restart of the Oi nuclear plant had initially been opposed by the mayor of Osaka. He later caved and agreed to the restart but not after a considerable number of threats from the utility and the national government were directed his way. The problem with allowing elected officials to make these decisions is that they can be bought, bribed, or intimidated into cooperation. Some have long histories of cooperation with the industries they are expected to legislate against or receive considerable political funding from these companies. The current head of METI, that establishes energy and nuclear policy for Japan was outed as having considerable investment in TEPCO.
The public is considerably cut out of the process. When public voting has been allowed on nuclear issues it almost always votes against the nuclear utility. This may be why legislative bodies and politicians are frequently used in order to gain the perception of public approval when it really doesn’t exist.
One of the volcano experts on the NRA commission has been protesting the restart of Sendai, stating that the NRA is ignoring the science on the issue. Safety plans approved by NRA are based on impossible scenarios and made up timelines that do not exist in reality or existing scientific capability. It is not clear if these experts have the ability to force a stop to the restart process even though they have documented how truly unsafe Sendai is.
Another possible option could be the courts. One group was able to win a court case against the Oi nuclear plant and the plan to restart that plant. Currently no court cases have been filed, opposition groups still could file something between now and the potential restart of Sendai in 2015. Direct public action is another possibility. If those in opposition to the restart cause enough disturbance it could make the restart too difficult politically or legally.
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