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Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012
Work resumes at Oma nuclear plant
J—Power boss visits, explains situation to local communities
Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) said Monday it has resumed construction of a nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture, becoming the first utility to do so since the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 complex last year.
Speaking in the town of Oma, site of the construction project, J-Power President Masayoshi Kitamura said he expects the plant's start to be delayed for at least about 18 months from the initially planned November 2014.
To explain the decision to resume the work, Kitamura visited Oma, located at the northernmost tip of Honshu, and two adjacent villages. He told reporters Monday that the three municipalities accepted the company's decision.
The government is allowing utilities to finish building reactors that have already been approved.
The decision is controversial, seeming to contradict another government plan to phase out nuclear power generation by the 2030s and forbid construction of new plants under an energy strategy worked out in September.
"Given that it has become clear how nuclear plants in the process of construction should be handled, we have decided to resume construction work with the understanding of locals," J-Power said in a statement.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano told a news conference in Tokyo that it is up to the operator to decide to resume the work, but he added that the new nuclear regulatory commission will check the safety of the plant before it goes into operation.
The Oma plant, which J-Power started building in May 2008, was slated to open in November 2014. The Fukushima crisis halted construction when it was about 40 percent complete.
The plant will house an advanced boiling-water reactor, with plans to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which contains plutonium extracted from spent fuel.
"The plant will be highly safe and reliable, using the most advanced technology," the company said in the statement.
Local governments in Aomori Prefecture have called for construction of the plant to continue.
Mitsuharu Kanazawa, the mayor of Oma, said he is "extremely relieved" that the utility will resume the project, which will create jobs for the town.
But the city of Hakodate, Hokkaido, which lies within a 30-km radius of the plant, separated by a strait, is against the plan.
Sumitomo worker freed
JAKARTA — A Japanese employee of trading house Sumitomo Corp. and his Indonesian driver were briefly abducted Saturday on Java Island by local residents opposed to a power plant project, police and people affiliated with the project said.
The Sumitomo employee is connected with the project to build Indonesia's largest power plant. The pair, who were not injured, were rescued by the police about five hours later, they said.
The Japanese employee, who was on a business trip from Japan, and the driver were abducted Saturday afternoon while visiting a village in Batang in north-central Java, police said, adding they were taken to a private residence.
The protesters threw rocks at the police, who responded with warning shots and tear gas. The vehicle in which the man was riding was destroyed, and the police temporarily detained some of the protesters.