22 octobre 2014 3 22 /10 /octobre /2014 08:48

October 22, 2014

 

Fukushima reactor cover dismantling begins

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141022_16.html

 

Oct. 22, 2014 - Updated 05:43 UTC+2

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun dismantling the cover of a reactor building to remove debris as part of preparations for removing the nuclear fuel from a spent fuel storage pool.

Tokyo Electric Power Company started the work on Wednesday at the No. 1 reactor building. The cover was installed after the 2011 accident to prevent the dispersal of radioactive materials.

Using a remote-controlled crane, workers made holes in the ceiling and sprayed chemicals to prevent dust from spreading. The utility plans to make a total of 48 holes and to spray chemicals for about a week.

Then, starting around October 30th, they will remove part of the ceiling to see whether any dust comes off.

The operator hopes to begin full-scale dismantling of the cover in March and complete the task in about a year.

It expects to start clearing the debris in 2016.

The operator says it will monitor the possible spread of radioactive materials and post the data on its website.

The dismantling of the cover was initially due to start in July of this year. But the utility deferred the work to come up with ways to ensure that radioactive materials do not spread.

When debris from another reactor building was removed last year, some feared that radioactive materials might have dispersed and contaminated nearby rice paddies.

The operator hopes to begin taking the fuel out of the storage pool at the No. 1 reactor building in fiscal 2017.

 

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21 octobre 2014 2 21 /10 /octobre /2014 19:50

NUCLEAR WATCH

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclearwatch/20141016.html

New Tools for Decontamination**

Workers at Japan's crippled nuclear plant have been showing off new tools to tackle a growing problem. They added equipment to decontaminate more of the water that's accumulating on the Fukushima Daiichi site. And they let the media see how they'll use it.
NHK WORLD's Mitsuko Nishikawa has the details.

Decontamination - New tools

This is a new unit of ALPS, the Advanced Liquid Processing System.
It's designed to remove most radioactive substances. Officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company say it can treat 750 tons of water every day.

Workers switched on their first ALPS unit in March last year. They've had to deal with a string of breakdowns. They showed the media their second unit.
They're also building a third with higher performance.

Decontamination - New tools

The extra units are essential. Three hundred tons of groundwater flows into the reactor buildings every day and gets contaminated. Workers store that water in tanks. They need to process about 360,000 tons.

"We're using a variety of equipment to try to decontaminate the water quickly."
Akira Ono / Chief, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

Workers also showed off another new tool. It decontaminates groundwater pumped up from wells around the reactor buildings and discharges it into the ocean.

Over 40 wells surround the four reactor buildings. Workers stopped pumping up groundwater after the nuclear accident in 2011 because they found it contained radioactive substances.

Decontamination - New tools
Decontamination - New tools

They started testing the decontamination system this August. They say it cuts most radioactive substances to a level too low to detect.

Company representatives explained the system's capabilities to local fishermen, but couldn't ease all their concerns

"For all of us in the fishing community, it's very important that the decommissioning of the reactors proceed smoothly. TEPCO officials must let us know more about the situation."
Tetsu Nozaki / Chairman, Fukushima fisheries federation

Decontamination - New tools

Experts say decommissioning the plant will take 40 years. And the radioactive water is one of the biggest hurdles. Company executives say they'll keep making that water as clean as they can with help from the government.

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21 octobre 2014 2 21 /10 /octobre /2014 19:46

October 17, 2014

Japan reactor near active volcanos called unsafe

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/japan-reactor-near-active-volcanos-called-unsafe/2014/10/17/2b10d832-55e7-11e4-b86d-184ac281388d_story.html

By Associated Press

TOKYO — A prominent volcanologist disputed Japanese regulators’ conclusion that two nuclear reactors were safe from a volcanic eruption in the next few decades, saying Friday that such a prediction was impossible.

A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanos surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan could not only hit the reactors but could cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, University of Tokyo professor emeritus who heads a government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction.

Nuclear regulators last month said two Sendai reactors fulfilled tougher safety requirements set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The regulators ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years until the reactors’ reach the end of their usable lifespan.

A surprise eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Sept. 27 has renewed concerns about the volcanos in the region.

“It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years,” Fujii said. “The level of predictability is extremely limited.”

He said at best an eruption can be predicted only a matter of hours or days.

Studies have shown that pyroclastic flow from an eruption 90,000 years ago at one of the volcanos near the Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture reached as far as 145 kilometers (90 miles) away, Fujii said. He said a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that is part of the larger Aira Cauldron, could easily hit the nuclear plant, which is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

Heavy ash falling from an eruption would make it impossible to reach the plant, and could also affect many parts of the country including Tokyo, he said. Many nuclear power plants could be affected in western Japan, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of the capital.

The two Sendai reactors are the first ones approved under the new safety requirement, which added resistance to volcanic eruption as part of safety evaluation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart the two, and any of the country’s 46 other workable reactors that are deemed safe, saying nuclear power is stable and relatively cheap compared to other energy source and key to Japan’s economic recovery.

Kyushu Electric Power Co., which operates the Sendai plant, promised taking measures to ensure access to workers in case of ash falls of up to 15 centimeters (6 inches), while installing a monitoring system to detect changes to volcanic activities. The utility also promised to transfer fuel rods to safer areas ahead of time if signs of eruptions are detected — a time-consuming process that experts say is unrealistic.

Fujii said ash falling as thick as 10 centimeters (4 inches) would make any vehicle, except for tanks, virtually inoperable. Power lines would be severed due to the weight of ash on them, causing blackouts and possibly cutting off electricity to the reactor cooling system.

Only after approving the reactors’ safety, the regulatory authority established a volcano panel to discuss the impact of eruptions and countermeasures. Fujii, a member of that panel, said experts are opposed to the regulators’ views. Even though catastrophic eruption could occur only once in as many as 10,000 years, a likelihood of one cannot be ruled out either, he said.

“Scientifically, they’re not safe,” he said of the Sendai reactors. “If they still need to be restarted despite uncertainties and risks that remain, it’s for political reasons, not because they’re safe, and you should be honest about that.”

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21 octobre 2014 2 21 /10 /octobre /2014 19:42

October 21, 2014

Nautical charts to be revised to reflect unprecedented changes caused by tsunami

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201410210001

Revising nautical charts after tsunami

By YURI IMAMURA/ Staff Writer

ONAGAWA, Miyagi Prefecture--About an hour into a Japan Coast Guard hydrographic survey mission, a crew member on lookout abruptly shouted for the dinghy to stop.

The starboard was about to touch a 200-meter-long rope floating about 1 meter beneath the sea surface near Onagawa Port, Miyagi Prefecture.

The rope was being used for an underwater operation to tie a work vessel to a buoy. The previous day, the crew discovered about 10 caissons, the gigantic concrete boxes that constitute the foundations of a breakwater, in the area.

The boxes, measuring 20 meters per side and each weighing several thousand tons, were dumped there by the tsunami three and a half years ago.

“Even those hefty caissons were swept up by the tsunami,” said Tsuyoshi Takaesu, the chief hydrographic surveyor of the main Tenyo survey vessel. “You will never know what you will encounter.”

The Japan Coast Guard continues to survey waters off the tsunami-affected Tohoku coast to revise nautical charts that take into account disaster-related rubble on the seabed, drifting objects and changing water depths that could pose a threat to safe navigation.

The mission primarily covers 24 ports and surrounding waters along the Pacific coast extending from Aomori Prefecture to Ibaraki Prefecture and is scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015.

The 2011 disaster caused changes to the seafloor on an unprecedented scale, Coast Guard officials said. And the mission so far has been full of surprises and potential dangers.

“A big mess would follow if (the rope) were to be caught in the dinghy’s propeller,” Takaesu said in a strained voice about the rope.

The dinghy’s crew approached carefully and used a pole to get the rope out of the way.

The compact dinghy, which is only 2 meters wide and 10 meters long, was deployed from the 430-ton Tenyo survey vessel on Sept. 17 to survey the shallow interior of the port.

The Tenyo, with a crew of 23 and Koichi Nishimura as captain, was surveying all parts of the harbor off the town of Onagawa for the first time in 32 years.

Takaesu, 50, has served in the post since immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered the tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The tsunami changed water depths significantly in nautical charts in at least one location for every harbor, according to officials of the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which oversees the coasts of the six Tohoku prefectures.

Nautical charts show water depths, coastal topography, locations of shoals and lighthouses, ocean flows and tide currents to ensure safe navigation of seafaring vessels and port use.

The new nautical charts will be used to set limits on the size of vessels and their cargo to ensure that seabed objects will not hit the ship bottoms.

Takaesu recalled the time he was in Kamaishi Port in Iwate Prefecture in May, when he came across a spot with a depth of only 1 to 2 meters, despite surrounding depths of 36 meters. When he hastily brought out measurement equipment, he saw something in the water that looked like Tokyo Tower.

“What’s this?” he thought, and returned to the same spot. He realized the object was a mess of entangled fishing nets.

“It gave me a shudder to realize that an object like that was still moving along,” Takaesu said. “Rebuilding efforts have proceeded visibly on land, but they probably still have a long way to go in the ocean.”

The dinghy can accommodate 10, but only five or six usually go on board because of the small interior.

A monitoring chamber in the center of the dinghy contains four computer monitors. A multi-beam sonar on the bottom measures the seafloor topography and produces graphical output.

The constant movement of the dinghy can induce sea sickness.

“I have yet to get accustomed,” said Kenta Kobayashi, a 21-year-old rookie who was assigned to do hydrographic surveys in spring.

The dinghy shuttled back and forth at a speed of 8-9 kph within a radius of about 100 meters near a tsunami breakwater under construction 1 km off Onagawa Port. It shifted its trajectory slightly to one side each time, just as you do when you wipe a floor with a cloth.

“We are passing by the caissons,” Kobayashi said as the dinghy entered the waters where the objects had been spotted the previous day. When the depths became shallower, the computer screens shifted from deep blue to orange.

Koji Saito, a 25-year-old assistant hydrographic surveyor, said he was working for the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, when the quake and tsunami struck. He said he found a swept-up passenger car in Hachinohe Port, Aomori Prefecture.

“Whenever I am on a survey mission, I can’t help but look for a car that may contain missing people,” Saito said.

Tsunami breakwaters were destroyed in the ports of Ofunato and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture, where water depths lost a maximum of 10 meters. But in a July 2011 survey, the water was 15 meters deeper than indicated in the nautical chart at one location in Hachinohe Port, Aomori Prefecture. It is believed that the tsunami induced a big eddy that scooped out part of the seafloor.

Coast Guard officials said local governments that administer ports are in charge of surveying any small changes, such as those resulting from wharf construction. The Coast Guard uses those survey results to modify its nautical charts.

But the 2011 disaster created so many changes that the Coast Guard took the unusual step of conducting comprehensive surveys and republishing nautical charts for all 24 ports affected.

It takes workers two to eight weeks to survey a single harbor. They work in three shifts around the clock. Data analysis requires an additional six months to one year.

“There is a pressing need for port maintenance to help rebuilding efforts,” said Hirokazu Mori, the 47-year-old chief of the hydrographic surveys division in the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters. “We hope to produce highly reliable nautical charts.”

Japan’s first nautical chart was created in 1872 by the navy and covered Kamaishi Port. Vessels of a certain dimension are legally obligated to equip themselves with nautical charts on a permanent basis.

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21 octobre 2014 2 21 /10 /octobre /2014 19:40

October 21, 2014

New ministers pledge no interruption to nuclear policy, female empowerment

Staff Writers

On his first day in his new job, industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa said Tuesday he will soon be ready to visit communities near nuclear power plants, apparently pledging to maintain the momentum for reactor restarts.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has cleared the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, and all that remains before it fires up once more is for the central government to secure local approval.

“Of course, I’d like to visit Kagoshima as soon as possible,” Miyazawa said as he began work as minister of economy, trade and industry.

His predecessor, Yuko Obuchi, resigned Monday over a political funds scandal.

At his first news conference at the ministry, Miyazawa, 64, said he doesn’t know exactly when he will visit Kagoshima as he has to work out the timing with various municipalities and the prefectural government.

The Kagoshima Prefectural Assembly had been asking Obuchi to go there and explain in person why the central government believes the two reactors at the plant in Satsumasendai should be fired up once more.

A visit is seen as critical to securing the understanding of local communities.

The two Sendai units are the only reactors that have so far cleared new safety hurdles created by the NRA in response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The central government wants to restart reactors that clear the NRA’s checks, but some observers have said they believe the shake-up in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, may slow the process.

Miyazawa, the nephew of the late Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, said he will steadily push ahead with reactor restarts, saying his job is to promote “responsible energy policies.”

The new METI chief said nuclear will remain a “baseload power source” for the country.

But he also said Japan must explore ways to boost its use of renewable energy to lower the reliance on nuclear power.

[...]

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:37

October 15, 2014

ANALYSIS: Government fails to address public concerns about state secrets law

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201410150039

By RYOTA KYUKI/ Staff Writer

Public criticism and fears were expressed when the government took steps to listen to the voice of the people after the Diet enacted the state secrets protection law in December 2013.

However, the law’s operating guidelines approved by the Abe Cabinet on Oct. 14 have done little to dispel suspicions that the government will use the legislation to conceal “inconvenient” information at the expense of the people’s right to know.

The law is now scheduled to take effect in December, yet questions remain over the standards for designating state secrets while doubts persist about the oversight body’s authority to check whether state secret designations will be made appropriately.

For example, the guidelines define 55 items that would be considered state secrets. However, the wording for those items is vague, such as “intelligence gathering by the Self Defense Forces” and “securing peace and security for the international community.”

Although some information must certainly be designated as secret from a national security standpoint, it will ultimately be the government that decides what specifically constitutes a state secret.

And when the government is making such decisions, the public will be kept in the dark on the process and will not know what was actually designated as a state secret.

The government will appoint an “independent public document inspector” to serve in an oversight role. But the inspector will not be a third-party source. The post will be established within the Cabinet Office, raising doubts about the independence of the inspector.

The inspector’s authority is also an issue. Even if the inspector asks a Cabinet minister to submit a state secret for screening, the minister can reject the request by saying the release of the information could cause significant damage to Japan’s national security.

Another area of concern is that civil servants and private-sector company employees will be evaluated to determine if they are fit to handle state secrets. The evaluations will look into the psychological problems and criminal records of those individuals.

The Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology submitted a public comment criticizing those evaluations as a violation of human rights. The organization said there is no causal relationship between psychological problems and the likelihood of leaking state secrets.

Those concerns were never taken into consideration in discussions on the law’s guidelines.

The government decided the state secrets protection law will go into effect on Dec. 10, keeping with the law’s provision that it take effect within a year after promulgation.

The law will impose strict penalties, including prison terms, against individuals who reveal such state secrets and those who solicit such information leaks.

If the law is allowed to take effect as it now stands, there is a danger that the people’s right to know and freedom of the press, two foundations of a democratic society, will be violated.

The public must continue monitoring the government on a number of fronts.

One such issue is the type of individual chosen as an independent public document inspector. The public should ask whether the inspector can remain independent of the government and whether a sufficient oversight function is in place to ensure that the people’s right to know is not being violated.

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:32

NUCLEAR WATCH

Oct. 15, 2014

Inside No-entry zone

The nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 caused a major dispersal of radioactive substances over many cities and villages around the plant. Three and a half years later, there are still many areas considered evacuation zones. Especially the highly contaminated "no-entry zones." Radiation exposure there exceeds 50 millisieverts a year. A level so high some evacuees face the prospect of never returning home. NHK WORLD's Ryo Asami has the story.

Akinori Shibata and his family once lived in Namie, a rural municipality not far from Fukushima Daiichi. The nuclear accident forced them to evacuate some 30 kilometers west to the city of Nihonmatsu, where they now live.

Shibata made a tough decision earlier this year. He gave up on the idea of returning to Namie, and decided to start a new life.

"This is my second hometown now. Over there is my real home, but we can't even enter that area."
Akinori Shibata

Still, Shibata is eager to follow the situation in Namie. So he's applied to enter the restricted zone with some radiation experts from Niigata University led by Professor Makoto Naito.

Since the nuclear accident, the group has been involved in regular surveys in Namie. They allowed me to follow them into the restricted area.

Nuclear Watch (NHK) : Inside No-entry Zone

"We're right in front of the no-entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi. Access beyond this point is restricted. We need this two-day permit to get in."
Ryo Asami / Namie, Fukushima

Nuclear Watch (NHK) : Inside No-entry Zone

According to Naito's research, average radiation levels went down in the no-entry zone. But they remain high in some areas.

Then we accompanied Shibata to his home. It's been about 6 months since he last visited.

Shibata finds some belongings that have a special meaning for the family -- his children's school diplomas.

I think making a quick decision was the right thing to do. I want my aging parents to enjoy the rest of their lives, and my children still have a future.
That's why I want to give them a normal life in a normal house."
Akinori Shibata

Many evacuees like the Shibatas are weighing a similar decision.
They're torn between the hope of going back one day and giving up entirely to make a clean start.

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:28

October 18, 2014

Editorial: System to facilitate promotion of renewable energy needed

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20141018p2a00m0na002000c.html

An advisory council to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has begun reviewing the so-called "feed-in-tariff" (FIT) scheme for renewable energy, where power companies buy electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar light, amid rising fears that the balance between power demand and supply could be disturbed due to utilities being flooded with offers in this regard.

Five power suppliers including Kyushu Electric Power Co. have stopped signing new contracts to buy electricity generated from renewable energy sources. However, since such sources account for only about 2 percent of total power used in the country (excluding hydroelectric power), the introduction of renewable energy should not be systematically hindered even if the FIT scheme needs to be reviewed.

Renewable energy sources play a key role in stepping up countermeasures against global warming, while decreasing the country's reliance on nuclear power. From a long-term perspective, therefore, the government should set a high target for introducing renewable energy while achieving a balance between the spread of such energy sources and the burden on consumers.

The FIT scheme was introduced in July 2012. By this past June, the total output of power generation facilities that operated using renewable energy had reached 11 million kilowatts. This was roughly 50 percent more than the amount before the introduction of the system -- thereby highlighting the FIT's effect in promoting the introduction of renewable energy sources.

The problem is that solar light constitutes an overwhelming majority of renewable energy used for power generation. Unlike wind power, solar power generators are easy to introduce insofar as such facilities do not require an environmental assessment by the national government. Power generation facilities using renewable energy sources, with a total output of some 60 million kilowatts, are not in operation even though they have been approved by the government. A vast majority of these facilities are solar power generators.

The price at which utilities buy electric power generated from renewable energy sources under the FIT scheme is reviewed every April. Since the price charged is that which is in place when the national government approves such facilities, however, power suppliers were flooded with applications for contracts at the end of last fiscal year shortly before the price was lowered this past April.

Under the ministry's plan to revise the scheme, excessive emphasis on solar power would be reconsidered -- and the price to be charged would be that which was in place at the time of the start of operations at such power generators, rather than at the time of government approval. The ministry will also consider setting an upper limit to the burden on consumers, and introducing a market mechanism for the operators of power generation facilities.

A review of the timing for determining the purchase price and promotion of renewable energy sources other than solar lights is appropriate. However, the introduction of the market mechanism needs to be carefully and thoroughly discussed. An extra burden is placed upon consumers since the price of electric power generated from renewable energy sources is added to power charges. On the other hand, renewable energy has drawn attention as a way to revitalize local economies. Certain consideration should be given to such efforts.

If all of the approved power generation facilities using renewable energy are to be in operation, the cost of buying such electricity would amount to 2.7 trillion yen a year, according to an estimate by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. This would increase the extra financial burden on consumers from the current 225 yen to 935 yen per month on average. However, money paid for such electricity will eventually be passed on to regions that host power generators using renewable energy. Therefore, the promotion of renewable energy should be considered from the viewpoint of investing in Japan's future.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has also begun reviewing each utility's capacity to accept power generated from renewable energy. Power grids need to be reinforced across power companies' service areas to significantly increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy. Still, utilities can increase their capacity to accept such power by effectively and efficiently using lines that connect different utilities' power grids.

Pumped-storage power generation facilities, which are often built along with nuclear power stations, should be proactively utilized as power storage batteries to adjust the output of power generated from renewable energy sources.

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:26

October 20, 2014

City assembly approves Sendai plant restart

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141020_32.html

Oct. 20, 2014 - Updated 10:20 UTC+2

A special panel at a city assembly in southern Japan has approved a petition to allow a local nuclear power plant to resume operations.

The panel at the Satsuma Sendai city assembly in Kagoshima Prefecture discussed petitions both for and against the restart of the Sendai plant on Monday.

The plant is operated by Kyushu Electric Power Company. Last month it became the first to pass new regulations for nuclear plants introduced after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Panel members in favor of the restart argued that the local economy has been sluggish since the plant went offline. But others opposing the restart said the screening by the government's Nuclear Regulation Authority does not guarantee the plant's safety.
The panel rejected 10 petitions against the restart, and adopted one calling for the plant to return online.

The city assembly is likely to approve the same petition because a majority of the assembly members are in favor of the restart.

The assembly may hold a session as early as October 28th to discuss the matter.

The plant operator says it hopes to win approval from Satsuma Sendai City and Kagoshima Prefecture.

The utility must also obtain approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The plant will then undergo inspection of the newly installed equipment before going online.

The restart is likely to be early next year.

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:22

October 20, 2014

Opponents scuffle with officials

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

Oct. 20, 2014 - Updated 13:11 UTC+2

People opposed to the restart of the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan scuffled with city officials when they tried to enter a room where the city assembly's special panel was meeting.

After the panel adopted a petition calling for the restart of the plant, people gathered in front of the Satsumasendai city hall to protest the decision.

Residents are divided over whether the Sendai nuclear plant should resume operations.

A hotel worker says she wants the plant to return online soon because it is the pillar of the local economy.

A man says nuclear plants need to be restarted to ensure a steady energy supply. He says he recently visited the plant and was impressed by the safety measures that have been implemented.

An 82-year-old woman says the assembly seems intent on restarting the plant soon. She says officials should take more time to ensure that future generations are able to live without worries.

Another woman says the officials are acting too hastily in making their decision before the prefecture concludes its public briefings.

She says more discussions are needed, but that she is worried because officials seem to be rushing to restart the plant.

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