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Anger over plans to restart Japan's nuclear plants

By Kyung Lah, CNN
January 19, 2012 -- Updated 1047 GMT (1847 HKT)
Japan began allowing its nuclear reactors to fall idle after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March last year.
Japan began allowing its nuclear reactors to fall idle after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March last year.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stress-test results for two idled reactors may pave the way to bring the plants back online
  • Japan allowed reactors to fall idle across country following Fukushima nuclear plant disaster
  • If more reactors are not brought back online, the country will have no nuclear plants in operation
  • Demonstrators accuse government of wanting to bring back nuclear plants without public input

Tokyo (CNN) -- "Shame on you, shame on you," shouted protestors, as officials met to discuss plans to restart Japan's nuclear plants for the first time since last year's Fukushima disaster.

About 20 demonstrators carrying anti-nuclear signs disrupted the closed meeting of government agency representatives and energy officials who were there to review the stress-test results for two idled reactors and pave the way to bring the plants back online.

The meeting could be observed by the public from a television monitor in a separate room, something the demonstrators say symbolized the government's intent to bring back nuclear plants without public input.

The panel, made up of Japanese nuclear experts, government members and professors, was eventually escorted out of the meeting room and assembled in another building.

"They shut out the citizens," said Ayako Sakine, a Greenpeace member and one of the 20 demonstrators. "This is unforgivable."

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Another demonstrator, Greg McNevin, said police officers in riot gear were even called in.

"People are saying very clearly what they want when it comes to the future of nuclear energy in Japan," he said. "They're not being heard."

Masahi Goto, a professor at the Shibaura Institute of Technology and a panel member in Wednesday's meeting, boycotted the session when he learned the public would be shut out. "I don't want to join a discussion held in a secret room," he said.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Japan's nuclear watchdog, presented a draft report at the meeting. It approves the stress test results from Kansai Electric Power Company, which owns the two reactors in question: No. 3 and No. 4 units at the Oi plant in Fukui prefecture, western Japan.

Kansai Electric said the stress tests show the reactors are able to withstand an earthquake 1.8 times stronger than the maximum presumed quake for the region, as well as a tsunami wave up to 11.4 meters high.

But an affirmative vote by the panel is just the first step in restarting the two plants.

They won't be brought back online until the Nuclear Safety Commission, another nuclear watchdog, reviews input from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Japanese experts.

The government and local communities will then decide on whether the plants should be brought back into full operation.

Japan began allowing nuclear reactors to fall idle across the country following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in March last year, which was triggered by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Every 13 months, nuclear plants are taken off-line for maintenance. But in the wake of the disaster, those plants have not come back online.

Currently, only five reactors are in operation. By April, if more reactors are not brought back online the country will have no nuclear plants in operation, placing more pressure on its energy suppliers.

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