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Nuclear power to resume in Japan

Nuclear power is likely to resume in Japan when the southern prefecture of Kagoshima gives the green light to restart the two-reactor Sendai plant. Japan has 48 nuclear reactors but all have been offline since September 2012, following the Fukushima nuclear meltdown the previous year.

Kagoshima Prefecture has kicked off a three-day emergency assembly meeting to discuss the restart of the two nuclear reactors it hosts. If the assembly and its governor support the resumption, the reactors can operate as early as January. The prefectural approval is the final official step needed.

The first big step forward was in September when the Nuclear Regulation Authority ruled that the reactors had met the new requirements set in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima accident. Next, Satsumasendai – the city which hosts the reactors – gave its support.

In the 51-member Kagoshima prefectural assembly, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds the majority. Hence critics are sure the assembly and the prefectural governor will give the green light to restart the nuclear reactors. This will support Abe government’s policy to use more nuclear power as part of a commitment to cut CO2 emission and reduce reliance of natural gas and oil.

Masakazu Toyoda, Chairman and CEO of The Institute of Energy Economics, said: “We have three important standpoints. One is the cost, clearly, the price of energy. Second is emissions; oil gas and coal will emit a lot of greenhouse gas while a nuclear reactor will not emit a meaningful amount of greenhouse gas. (Third) energy security; price goes up and comes down, that’s oil.”

For Kyushu – Japan’s third largest island – nuclear power is regarded as important because it has been suffering from more power shortage than other parts of the country. But there is strong public opposition to the nuclear restart.

Yoshitaka Mukohara, who leads a citizens group against nuclear power in Kagoshima, told Channel NewsAsia that protesters are trying to stop the restart by filing a petition to court.

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