TOKYO — A majority of Japanese oppose a restart of nuclear power plants currently shut for maintenance, a poll by the Asahi newspaper showed on Tuesday, reflecting high public distrust towards atomic power after the 2011 tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis. The government wants to restart some of the nuclear plants to avoid a potential power crunch come the peak summer season, with only two of 54 nuclear reactors generating electricity. The two last reactors are due to be shut for maintenance.
Trade Minister Yukio Edano said this month that no nuclear reactors in Japan may resume operations in time for summer, leaving the country facing an estimated 10 percent power shortage during demand hours in summer. According to the opinion poll conducted over the weekend, 57 percent of people opposed the restart of nuclear reactors with 80 percent not trusting the government’s safety measures. Public concern towards nuclear power shot up in the wake of the nuclear disaster last March, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled Fukushima’s Dai-ichi atomic power plant 240 km (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo and triggered the worst disaster of its kind since Chernobyl in 1986. The government has been conducting stress tests on the reactors to prove their safety to a cynical public. But many local governments hosting nuclear reactors have called for a more comprehensive set of tests taking into account damage caused at Fukushima. After the Fukushima disaster Japan said it will reduce its reliance on nuclear — which before the crisis accounted for 30 percent of electricity demand — in the medium to long term. For the time being the dwindling share of nuclear power has forced Japan to import more oil and especially liquefied natural gas to plug the gap.