Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said restarting the country’s remaining reactors is needed to help counter the high costs of imported oil and gas, and because many communities are dependent on jobs and tax revenues associated with the nuclear plants. There is also pressure to burn through the nation’s stockpile of 40 to 50 nuclear weapon’s worth of plutonium. And Japan’s nuclear regulators deemed the plant safe to operate under stricter rules imposed after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which displaced more than 160,000 residents.
But many protesters remained unconvinced that the new safety requirements and evacuation protocols will be sufficient to avert another catastrophe.
“You will need to change where you evacuate to depending on the direction of the wind,” said Nomura, according to Reuters. “The current evacuation plan is nonsense.”
On Tuesday, amid protests and with tight security in place, one of Sendai’s two nuclear reactors was restarted, The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield reported.
A young protester, speaking to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, told reporters: “Human life and nature are more precious than the economy.”
A day before the reactor was restarted, Abe had tried to answer such concerns. “We prioritize safety more than anything,” Abe told reporters. “Based on the harsh experience of Fukushima, we will not restart any plants unless they are approved as they meet the world’s strictest standards.”