As summer approaches, Japan has to make a very hard decision: To restart two offline nuclear reactors or leave them alone.
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, all but one of Japan’s 54 reactors have been offline for months for maintenance checks. Even the one remaining reactor will be shut down for its maintenance on May 5th.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has not made any decision yet, but it has to be made soon. The reactors, numbers 3 and 4 at the Kansai Electric Power Co’s Ohi plant, are ready to go. Each of the reactors has undergone government-imposed, computer simulated stress tests and have passed them all.
The restarting of the reactors could also help ease the burden of Japan’s imports of liquefied natural gas, which has exceeded 51.8 million metric tons. By turning on the reactors, Japan would consume 2 million metric tons of liquefied gas less annually. In addition, Japan has consumed 150% more in crude oil in the past year. All of this is because Japan got 30% of its power from nuclear before Fukushima.
However, more concerns have been raised about the safety of Japan’s nuclear power plants after two official studies released this past weekend said much higher waves could hit than previously predicted.
This, combined with recent reports about the hazardous cleanup process at Fukushima and the instability of the three offline reactors there, make the Noda administration’s decision that much more difficult. With the summer months looming, Noda’s decision will be one he has to make soon, but one that should not be made hastily.