Japan Nuclear Program Restarted Amid Protests, Concerns Over Fukushima

Japan Nuclear Program Restarted Amid Protests, Concerns Over Fukushima

July 02, 2012

Protests greeted Japan’s restarting of its nuclear program on Sunday, the first time the nuclear reactors have sprung into operation since May 5, when all 50 of the reactors in the country were shut down for safety checks in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

Since the deadly disaster, which caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear power plant in northern Japan, trust has severely eroded for the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which owns the reactor, and for the entire nuclear-power industry.

Reactor No. 4 suffered an explosion and fire that blew away the walls and roof of the steel-reinforced concrete building, according to Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine in a May 2012 article.

The stability of Fukushima's reactors are in question, according to nuclear experts throughout Japan and the U.S.

On Sunday July 1 Kansai Electric Power Co. Ltd. (KEPCO) took the first steps necessary for restarting the Ohi nuclear plant's No. 3 reactor, surrounded by what CNN called raucous protestors.

The double disaster killed more than 15,000 people in northeastern Japan, and radiation spewed from the plant, prompting massive evacuations.

Since then Fukushima’s operator has admitted that plant officials were not prepared for the scope of the disaster.

"All who were related to the nuclear plant could not predict an occurrence of the event which was far beyond our expectation," TEPCO Executive Vice President Masao Yamazaki told a news conference on June 20, according to CNN. "We did not have enough measures to prevent the accident."

The Japanese government is also investigating via a 10-member panel, and Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura also said that “neither TEPCO nor government regulators were prepared for the chance that a tsunami could trigger a nuclear disaster,” CNN reported.

TEPCO’s report was released last week.