Local councillors of a western Japanese town have approved planned restarts of two local reactors. It's the first such nod since the Fukushima disaster forced the closure of all of Japan's 50 reactors for checks.
The chairman of the Ohi town council in western Japan, Kinya Shintai, said "we decided to agree to a restart," saying local councilors had weighed up residents' opinions and livelihoods dependent on the local nuclear industry.
Last month, Japan's central government had said that Ohi's reactors No. 3 and No. 4 run by Kansai Electric Power were safe under a consultation procedure. This stipulates that reactors must pass International Atomic Energy Agency stress tests and get consent from local communities.
A draft government document upped the pressure on Monday by asking consumers and businesses served by Kansai to reduce consumption by 20 percent over the northern hemisphere's summer.
Greenpeace wants push for renewables
The environmental group Greenpeace says Japan should concentrate on ramping up renewable energy sources. Last weekend, the pro-nuclear Yomiuri newspaper said a survey had shown Japanese equally for and against restarts.
Before an earthquake and tsunami left three Fukushima reactors in meltdown in the northeastern Niigata prefecture in March last year, Japan generated nearly a third of its electricity in nuclear plants.
Fukushima's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, predicted on Monday that it would end the financial year that ends in March 2013 with narrow losses of 980 million euros (100 billion yen).
LNG has become Japan's mainstay after Fukishima
This follows the central government's decision last Wednesday to inject public funds into Tokyo Electric and bring it under state control while it copes with compensation demands from victims and decommissions damaged reactors.
Liquified Natural Gas boosts Australian exports
In a related development on Monday, Australia, which delivers 70 percent of Japan's imports of liquified natural gas (LNG), said it had enough gas reserves to maintain current production for 184 years.
Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said Australia's LNG production could quadruple by 2017, placing it on a par with global exporter Qatar. The nation's Gas Resources Assessment says Australian gas output could exceed its coal extraction by 2035.
ipj/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)