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Doubt in Kansai grows over plant restarts, blackout predictions via The Japan Times Online

OSAKA — Distrust of the central government’s conclusion that the Oi No. 3 and No. 4 reactors are safe to restart and doubts over Kansai Electric Power Co.’s predictions of possible blackouts without them have grown in Kansai this week.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada and Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who oppose an immediate restart of the reactors in neighboring Fukui Prefecture upped the political stakes Tuesday, calling on Tokyo to strengthen security and disaster response measures with local governments that lie within a planned 30-km-radius Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone, where residents would be asked to prepare for evacuation depending on the situation in the case of a severe accident. “Some 68,000 people live within 30 km of the Oi reactors, and Lake Biwa, the water source for 14.5 million people, also sits within this zone. If there is an accident at the Oi plant, our two prefectures will also suffer damage,” Yamada and Kada said in a joint statement.

Pressure over the past few days from those who want the Oi reactors to restart has been growing. On Monday, Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yoshito Sengoku told an audience in Nagoya that a total halt of all reactors would be akin to “mass suicide.”

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In a list of proposals to the central government, Kyoto and Shiga prefectures also call for an independent committee to determine whether power shortages would actually result if the nation’s nuclear plants remain shut down. “It’s necessary to create a third party of experts, who can check electricity supply and demand in a fair manner, not just make a decision based solely on information provided by the utilities,” the two governors said.

Hashimoto’s distrust of Kepco and the DPJ’s handling of the restart of the Oi reactors runs even deeper. At his request, a joint Osaka prefectural-municipal energy strategy committee of outside experts, including renewable energy experts, has been investigating Kepco’s management structure since February.

Last week, Kepco officials admitted to committee members that 69 former central and local government officials had taken postretirement positions with Kepco subsidiaries and affiliated companies as of March 31.

In addition, Kepco reported that in fiscal 2010 it provided nearly ¥1.7 billion in donations to 600 different local governments, including towns in Fukui Prefecture hosting nuclear power plants, as well as public service corporations and other groups.

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