Kansai's Ohi Plant

Japan nuclear reactor restart to be assessed by ministers

The safety of Kansai Electric Power Co’s two nuclear reactors will be assessed by Japanese ministers as early as this month, media have reported.

After a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in the country last year, the two reactors – like most of the country’s 52 idled reactors – were shut down for safety checks and not allowed to restart.

The two reactors - units 3 and 4 at Kansai's Ohi plant - each generate 1,180 megawatts of electricity. The independent nuclear agency finished on Tuesday a technical review of the reactors, paving the way for officials to make a decision.

But the ministerial meeting, headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, is likely to approve the reactors' restart only after the government manages to erase public distrust of its widely criticised safety measures after the Fukushima accident. This may take months, judging from a poll this week by the Asahi newspaper which showed a majority of Japanese oppose a restart of nuclear power plants currently shut for maintenance.

Japan may face a power shortage this summer as its last two operating reactors are due to shut down for maintenance by May.

Japan has vowed to reduce its reliance on nuclear power and the government is set to decide its new energy policy by this summer after finalising a national debate on its options. A government panel probing the Fukushima disaster is compiling its final report, which is also due in the summer.

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