14 Apr 2012

Nuclear power stations cleared for re-start

12:05 pm on 14 April 2012

Two nuclear reactors in Japan have been declared safe and the government says they should be re-started to counter looming power shortages.

Only one nuclear reactor is still in action since the tsunami on 11 March last year triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. It will be switched off in May for routine maintenance.

However, regional authorities need to give their approval before two reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan can re-start.

The plant is about 100km north of Osaka in Fukui prefecture. It is operated by Kansai Electric Power.

Economy & Industry Minister Yukio Edano said inspectors had "finally confirmed" that Ohi's Number 3 and Number 4 reactors were safe and the government "deemed it necessary" to re-start them.

Mr Edano said Japan faces a summer of "very severe power shortages".

Before the disaster, nearly a third of Japan's electricity was generated by nuclear power.

The BBC reports the government has been carrying out stress tests on nuclear power stations to reassure people living nearby that they can resist strong earthquakes.

But since the Fukushima disaster, local communities have been refusing to allow reactors to be restarted after routine maintenance, which has to take place every 13 months.

In the meantime, electricity companies are pressing old power plants back into service.