Japan Government Pushes for Nuclear Restart Despite Protests

Created: 2013-05-23 00:12 EST

Category: World > Asia Pacific

All may be quiet now at Hamaoka, but this nuclear plant critics call Japan's most dangerous.

It lies in a seismic danger-zone, just 120 miles from Tokyo.
Like all but two of Japan's 50 reactors it remains offline, put on review after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Now Japan's new pro-nuclear government pushes the economic case for reactors like this to restart operations.
[Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime MInister]:
"Deciding to ditch nuclear power can in no way be called a responsible energy policy." 
At that time, government experts put the chance of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Hamaoka area in the next three decades at 87 percent, raising questions over why it was built there in the first place.
LDP lawmakers fear that would also cast a shadow over a restart for Hamaoka.
[Hiroyuki Hosoda, Liberal Democratic Party]:
"If we stop a plant that's quite safe simply because of potentially huge earthquake that may or may not come at some point in the future, well it contradicts what we can predict scientifically."
Plant operator Chubu Electric is scrambling to put up defences to restore public confidence.
At a cost of $1.5 billion USD, it has constructed a new tsunami defence wall that sits 22-metres (72 feet) above sea level and added flood doors to reactor buildings.
Masashi Goto, a former engineer at reactor maker Toshiba, said just adding new features will not significantly improve safety.
[Masashi Goto, Engineer]:
"You can't just take piecemeal steps on safety. You've got to go back to the drawing board and take absolute full-proof measures from the very first design stages. Otherwise you'll find the same accidents happening all over again."
The former prime minister who shut down Hamaoka two years ago said the plant should not be allowed to restart.
[Naoto Kan, Former Prime Minister]:
"There are two overlapping factors at play here: the plant is close to the epicentre of a potentially massive earthquake and it's also right in the middle of a highly important economic area including the residents of Tokyo. If you take everything into consideration then Hamaoka should not be allowed to restart." 
More than two years on from the Fukushima disaster, public voices questioning nuclear power have diminished.
Activists still gather weekly in Tokyo -- but now there are less and less protesting.