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.
The Abe administration will raise the minimum wage by 3 percent each year starting next fiscal year as part of a package of policies aimed at strengthening consumer spending and stoking economic growth. (Japan Times)
A former member of the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly who gained Internet notoriety when he suffered a breakdown during a news conference failed to show up Tuesday for the start of his fraud trial. (Japan Times)
Three bodies have been retrieved from a boat found floating in the Sea of Japan off the coast of Fukui Prefecture on Sunday, two days after a similar discovery in waters off a neighboring prefecture, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 23). (Tokyo Reporter)