A countdown is starting in Japan for restarting some of the 48 nuclear reactors that were idled after the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns caused the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl.
The nation's Nuclear Regulation Authority will receive applications for switching on plants starting July 8, and more than five utilities plan to seek permits. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the wrecked Dai-Ichi plant that spread radiation in the Fukushima area, said yesterday it will seek permission to start its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant as soon as possible. Its shares jumped 19 percent yesterday.
Meeting new safety rules to restart is urgent for utilities bleeding cash from importing extra oil and gas for backup generation. Japan paid 24.7 trillion yen ($241 billion) for fossil fuels in the year ended in March, up 36 percent from the 12 months before the disaster. Imports this year are even more expensive with the yen's 14 percent drop against the dollar.
"The decision to seek this safety review is an important one," Tokyo Electric President Naomi Hirose told reporters at a briefing in Tokyo yesterday. "In our existing turnaround plan, restarts were scheduled from this past April. It's almost impossible to become profitable again when conditions are different from the ones anticipated in the plan."
Japan's nine utilities with atomic plants reported combined losses of 1.59 trillion yen ($16 billion) in the year ended March 31. Only Hokuriku Electric Power Co. posted a profit, ending the year 100 million yen ahead, and only two reactors are currently running, both belonging to Kansai Electric Power Co.
Japan on Monday began its annual "Cool Biz" campaign, which encourages workers to dress more casually to help reduce energy use, with government offices allowing polo shirts, Hawaiian-style aloha shirts and similar attire. (Japan Times)
The search on the ground for the last missing person in the series of powerful earthquakes that hit Kumamoto Prefecture recently was terminated on Sunday due to persistent fears of secondary disasters. (Jiji Press)
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida conveyed Tokyo's concerns over the situations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, during their meeting in Beijing on Saturday. (Jiji Press)
In the latest development in the gambling scandal involving Yomiuri Giants players, the Metropolitan Police Department on Friday arrested restaurateur Satoshi Saito, 38, on suspicion of running gambling operations for the purpose of gain and former Giants pitcher Shoki Kasahara, 25, on suspicion of assisting the operations. (the-japan-news.com)
The Osaka District Public Prosecutor's Office has filed charges of drug trafficking against a 40-year-old woman who left a large quantity of illegal drugs inside a fast-food outlet, reports the Asahi Shimbun (April 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
An increasing number of people are using the "furusato nozei" hometown donation program to support Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, which has been hit hard by a recent series of strong earthquakes. (Jiji Press)
A 28-year-old nursery school teacher who forced a 4-year-old boy to eat fried chicken covered with wasabi and recorded it on her smartphone, has received a suspended sentence from the Tokyo District Court. (Japan Today)