Reactor No. 3, right, and No. 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi nuclear power plant in Ohi, Japan, on Jan. 26. (By Shizuo Kambayashi, AP)
TOKYO (AP via USA Today) - Japan moved closer Thursday to restarting nuclear reactors for the first time since last year's earthquake and tsunami led to a nationwide shutdown after a mayor gave his support to a plan to bring two of them back online.
All 50 of Japan's workable reactors are offline because of safety concerns or for maintenance since the March 11 disaster touched off a crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Public opposition to nuclear power remains high, even though the government has been pressing for the restarting of reactors because it says nuclear energy is crucial to Japan's economy.
The mayor of the western town of Ohi on Thursday signed off on the plan to restart the town's two reactors. The prime minister has to give final approval, which Japanese media reports said will likely happen Saturday. The two reactors could be restarted as soon as this weekend.
Local consent is not legally required for restarting the reactors, but the government wants the support because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Before last year's crisis, Japan depended on nuclear for about one-third of its electricity and was planning to expand that further. The government is now carrying out a sweeping review of that plan.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the government has taken ample measures to ensure the two reactors in Fukui prefecture - where Ohi is located - would not leak radiation if an earthquake or tsunami as severe as last year's should strike them.