via Reuters / July 4, 2012
Buffeted by industry worries about high electricity costs on one side and public safety fears about nuclear power on the other, Japan’s leaders are still struggling to craft a coherent energy policy more than a year after the Fukushima disaster.
Critics say Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose top priority is raising the sales tax to curb bulging public debt, is caving in to Japan’s “nuclear village” – a powerful nexus of utilities, bureaucrats and businesses – by restarting the first of Japan’s 50 reactors to come back on line since the crisis.
Kansai Electric Power Co’s No. 3 unit at its Ohi plant, in western Japan, will resume supplying power to the grid as early as Thursday, and its No. 4 unit will also restart this month, as the government seeks to avoid a summer power crunch.
Many experts, though, say the nuclear interests are unlikely to win the longer-term battle given the hidden costs of atomic power exposed by Fukushima and a new set of forces pushing for a bigger role for renewable sources of energy such as solar power.