Skip to main content

Japan PM criticized over nuclear plant stress tests

By Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
An aerial view of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
An aerial view of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
  • Government announced Thursday that all nuclear plants would face "stress tests"
  • Announcement surprised officials who'd consented to restart reactors at Genkai plant
  • Reactors would have been the first among 18 idled across the country
  • Move prompted officials in Saga prefecture to oppose restarting altogether
  • Japan
  • Natural Disasters
  • Earthquakes
  • Tsunamis

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- Local government officials criticized Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his cabinet Thursday for giving mixed signals over the resumption of nuclear power plants shut down since the March 11 earthquake.

Since Japan relies heavily on nuclear power, the government has been keen to resume operation of nuclear plants to ease a power shortage. Plants were shut down when the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant was damaged in the earthquake, leading to a nuclear crisis.

On Wednesday the government made a surprise announcement that it would conduct "stress tests" on all of the country's nuclear plants to regain public confidence. The announcement, however, shocked local officials who had given their consent to restart the reactors at the Genkai plant -- the first among the 18 idled across the country.

The stress tests -- computer simulations to evaluate how the facilities would cope in various natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis -- are expected to take several months. This would mean a further delay in the resumption of nuclear plant operations, if local governments are to wait for results of the tests.

In a meeting with Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, Yasushi Furukawa, the governor of Saga prefecture where Genkai Nuclear Power Plant is located, questioned why the stress test announcement was being made after the local government had consented to restarting the reactors.

Because of the controversy, Furukawa said he was not ready to permit operations to resume after the stress tests.

In a similar move, Hideo Kishimoto, the mayor of Genkai, also withdrew his consent for restarting reactors at the plant.

"Personally I feel I would like to retract it and think from scratch," he said.

On Thursday Banri Kaieda, Japan's Minister of Energy, Industry and Trade, said at a parliament session that he "would take responsibility when the time comes" over the confusion stemming from his announcement of stress test.

The controversy surrounding the nuclear power plant "stress tests" is the latest to cause trouble for Kan's Cabinet.

On Tuesday his minister of reconstruction, Ryo Matsumoto, resigned after only nine days after making insulting remarks to the disaster victims. He has since been replaced Tatsuo Hirano.

Part of complete coverage on
Wedding bells toll post-quake
One effect of Japan's deadly quake has been to remind many of the importance of family and to drive them to the altar.
Toyota makes drastic production cuts
Toyota has announced drastic production cuts due to difficulty in supplying parts following the earthquake in Japan.
Chernobyl's 25-year shadow
There's an eerie stillness about the desolate buildings and empty streets of Pripyat.
Inside evacuation 'ghost town'
A photographer documents the ghost town left behind by the nuclear crisis in Japan. What he found was a "time stop."
One month since the quake
Somber ceremonies mark one month since the earthquake and tsunami killed as many as 25,000 people.
First moments of a tsunami
Witnesses capture the very first moments of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March.
The 'nuclear renaissance' that wasn't
A month after a devastating earthquake sent a wall of water across the Japanese landscape, the global terrain of the atomic power industry has been forever altered.
Drone peers into damaged reactors
Engineers use a flying drone to peer into the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.