Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda instructed the Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) to put into operation two closed down reactors in the country's industrial heartland of western Japan, even in the face of public distrust of the technology after the havoc wrecked by last year's tsunami.
The move to restart two reactors in the Fukui prefecture will thus end the country's first period of zero reliance on nuclear power in decades, Kyodo news agency reported.
Noda received approval for the restart from Issei Nishikawa, the pro-nuclear power governor of central Fukui prefecture, which hosts the plant. "Now that we have approval from the autonomous body where the reactors are relocated, we made the decision to restart the reactors," Noda told the meeting on camera.
The crisis at Tokyo Electric Power company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan, has dented public trust in the government's nuclear power policy and prevented the restart of reactors shut down for regular checkups.
Since the last of 50 operational commercial reactors in Japan went offline May 6 for checks, all reactors in the country have stopped operating for the first time since 1970, raising concerns over power shortages this summer. Before the Fukushima crisis, nuclear power used to supply about 30 per cent of Japan's electricity.
About 500 hundred people rallied outside Noda's official residence in central Tokyo to protest against his approach to nuclear power generation despite the on-going nuclear accident. "Don't activate dangerous nuclear reactors any more," their banners read.
The nod from Nishikawa was the final link in the chain for Noda, who has become a vocal advocate of nuclear power being brought back into the energy mix for resource-poor but electricity-hungry Japan.