Japan mayor's U-turn on restarting local nuclear reactors

Japan mayor's U-turn on restarting local nuclear reactors

The mayor of a town on the Japanese southern island of Kyushu withdrew his earlier approval Thursday to resume two reactors, under pressure from locals' distrust of the government and the plant operator, DPA reported.

The move after the government announced Wednesday that Tokyo would conduct "stress tests" on nuclear power plants across the country in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The plant has been leaking radioactive substances since it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

But Wednesday's announcement confused many municipalities that host nuclear power plants because Industry Minister Banri Kaieda had already declared on June 18 that there was "no problem regarding safety concerning the continued operation and restart" of any of them.

Kaieda made the announcement without informing Prime Minister Naoto Kan beforehand, he later acknowledged.

The government especially angered Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto as his town was the first to give the go-ahead to restarting the two reactors of the Genkai Nuclear Power Station in its municipality in Saga prefecture.

The reactors like many others in Japan have been suspended for regular inspections.

Saga Governor Yasushi Furukawa flew to Tokyo to see Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who apologized to him for the confusion.

The premier "sometimes makes positive remarks about the resumption [of nuclear reactors], and sometimes he does the opposite. I told the chief cabinet secretary that, unless the government comes up with a proper unified view, we, the local government, would not know how to act," Furukawa was quoted by the Kyodo News agency as telling reporters after the meeting.

Kaieda told a parliamentary committee session Thursday that he would "eventually take responsibility" for the confusion.

Furthermore, a scandal involving the Kyushu Electric Power Co, which runs the Genkai plant, emerged.

The company conceded earlier this week that an employee had sent emails to co-workers and subsidiaries in late June, asking them to send comments supporting for the resumption of the two reactors to a government-sponsored local TV program on the issue.

It remains to be seen whether recipients moved into action.

The company president Toshio Manabe told Kyodo Thursday that he would decide as early as Monday whether to resign to take responsibility for the affair.

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