Mayor nixes Japan plant reactivation

The mayor of Genkaicho, Saga Prefecture, on Thursday retracted his consent to restart two reactors at the Genkai nuclear power plant, showing frustration with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's sudden announcement that safety assessments would be conducted at nuclear facilities.

Only days after giving the nod to the restart, the mayor, Hideo Kishimoto, announced the retraction at a press conference, casting doubt on the possible restart of the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s nuclear power plant.

On Wednesday, Kan said he instructed concerned ministers to conduct so-called stress tests on the nation's reactors as well as to create new safety standards to determine whether the reactors, currently suspended for regular inspections or since the March 11 disaster, should return to operation.

"I've instructed [Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri] Kaieda and nuclear crisis minister [Goshi] Hosono to create new rules to let the government make decisions that would satisfy people on safety issues," Kan said during the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting.

"Under existing rules, the reactors can restart with permission from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the industry minister. The current system would make it difficult for us to obtain public trust," Kan said.

His remarks indicated the government would put off decisions to restart the reactors until new safety rules are drawn up despite Kaieda's early encouragement to bring reactors back online.

Kaieda had told municipalities hosting nuclear facilities that "sufficient" safety measures had already been taken.

On June 29, Kaieda visited Saga Prefecture and told municipalities concerned that the central government would bear responsibility for restarting the reactors safely.

However, an apparent abrupt policy change, initiated by Kan, has confused people, particularly in areas that host nuclear power plants.

"If [the government] wants to conduct stress tests, they should have told us earlier," Kishimoto said in anger Thursday. "I can't trust the government. Kan had better quit soon."

Kishimoto said he would reconsider the restart of the reactors at the Genkai plant, once the stress tests were complete.

Following the latest development, Kaieda hinted Thursday that he would resign at some point to take responsibility for the confusion.

During a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting, Yosuke Isozaki of the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party criticized the government's handling of the matter and urged Kaieda to step down.

"It's terrible that the prime minister overturns [the agreements], although Mr. Kaieda is working hard," Isozaki said. "How do you take responsibility for Saga Prefecture? Don't you think you should quit?"

In response, Kaieda said, "I'll take responsibility when the time comes."

Kaieda's statements at the time appeared to show his frustration with Kan's flip-flopping stance on nuclear policy.

However, he later told reporters, "I still have a lot to do," denying an early resignation.

Edano apologizes to Saga gov.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano met with Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa at the Prime Minister's Office Thursday morning.

Edano apologized to Furukawa for the administration's poor handling of the reactor situation. He also told Furukawa that the government will announce whether reactor resumption will depend on stress tests and other safety checks.

At the meeting, Furukawa said, "I wonder if Kan and Kaieda have different views on nuclear policy."

The governor called on Kan to visit Saga Prefecture to clearly explain the government's position on the issue.