Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is preparing to resume by next year the world's largest nuclear power plant, damaged and closed for repairs after the earthquake that struck Japan in 2007. TEPCO, which also owns the plant in Fukushima, is working in close collaboration with the government: despite the political and popular protests, the Japanese Prime Minister Noda has given the go-ahead to resume nuclear power production.
Naomi Hirose, the 59 year-old president of Tepco, said in an interview that reactivating the Kashiwazaki Kariwa station "is part of our plan to save the country from an energy crack. And we have no plan B". In fact, the company, too, is in a disastrous situation: the earthquake and tsunami that one year ago struck the area of Fukushima, causing the partial meltdown of the plant, cost the company billions of yen.
But now the government is hoping to restart it, partly because the prices of energy and of industrial production are bringing the national economy to its knees. Tokyo has earmarked one trillion yen - nearly 12.6 billion dollars - to lower the cost of electricity and repair the stations. But security tests imposed by the Ministry of Energy on the country's 50 nuclear plants are so rigid that only 2 have been granted permission to reactivate. According to Tomoko Murakami, an analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics in the capital, "thinking of reactivating the Kashiwazaki within one year is just wishful thinking."
Before the crisis in Fukushima, 30% of energy for civilian use in Japan was generated from nuclear power plants. The government programs provide long-term reduction of dependence on nuclear energy, impractical at the moment, in favor of renewable energies: Parliament yesterday approved an appropriation of funds to support this energy field, but stressed that it will take a "long time" before it can compete with nuclear energy.
The Japanese industrial sector has pressed since the early days after the disaster to reactivate the plants and has obtained the return of nuclear power thanks to objective data, including the serious risk of blackouts, that indicates that the energy needs of the population cannot be met without resorting to nuclear energy or greatly reducing the standard of living of its inhabitants. One example out of many is wealthy Kansai (central Japan), where the estimates highlight a 15% drop in production during the peak of summer demand.
According to Professor Augustin Boey, a researcher in the field of atomic energy at the University of Singapore, "renewable energy and nuclear power are the key to the development of industrialized nations, which must take into account an increasing demand for energy. With a serious national and international control, aimed at ensuring security, this field presents no cause for alarm. As instead certainly does continuing to rely on energy derived from fossil fuels."