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Japan assembly OKs restarting of reactors

Kansai Shares Rise, Neighbors Wary

Kansai Electric's share price closed up almost 5.6 percent after the news, helping the benchmark Nikkei share index break a three-day losing streak.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan's biggest utility and the owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant, posted on Monday an annual loss of almost US$10 billion as compensation claims for the radiation disaster brought it to the brink of bankruptcy and fuel costs soared after idling all its atomic plants.

The central government has no legal obligation to win local approval, but is unlikely to proceed with restarts without the agreement of the host town and prefecture government.

It is uncertain, though, whether Tokyo authorities would override opposition from nearby prefectures with public opinion divided.

A weekend survey by the pro-nuclear power Yomiuri newspaper showed that 45 percent of respondents backed restarting reactors deemed safe and an equal number were opposed.

Some critics say the government is making undue haste to get reactors up and running because surviving peak summer demand without nuclear power would make it hard to convince the public that atomic energy is vital.

Environmental group Greenpeace said the government's “reckless push” to get reactors back in service “has left many communities thinking they have to choose between risks to their health and safety, and risks to their jobs and prosperity.

Nuclear power produced nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity before the crisis. The government is working on an energy mix policy it hopes to unveil this summer, replacing a program that had aimed to boost the share of atomic power to more than 50 percent by 2030.

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