1. WSJ – After an uncertain couple of weeks, more and more signs are now suggesting that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will give a formal order to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi plant in western Japan next week. It would then take two or three weeks to get each one up and running.
A key turning point came Thursday morning, when Toru Hashimoto — mayor of Osaka and Japan’s most popular politician — effectively backed down from his previous position of opposing the Oi restarts, and gave his “approval” to bringing the reactors back on line — albeit, he said, just “temporarily.”
I think the two Oi reactors have a 40% chance to start in June and 65% chance to start by the end of July
For Mr. Hashimoto, that threatened power crunch appears to have been the deciding factor. In a press conference Thursday, the mayor said that he’d back reactor restarts if it was necessary to avoid a power shortage in western Japan. The government has said that the area covered by Kansai Electric Power Co., which runs the Oi plant and depended on nuclear power for half of its electricity generating capacity, could have power shortages of up to 15% if the reactors don’t go back online.
Now, the biggest remaining step is for Mr. Noda to get a formal agreement for the restarting of the Oi reactors from the governor of Fukui prefecture, which hosts the plant. The Fukui governor is widely expected to do that next week.
But will the reactors stay on? Mr. Hashimoto has said he wants restarts to be only temporary — in other words, he’d like the reactors to be powered down after the summer season of peak demand passes. Mr. Noda has said it sees a reactor restart as permanent.
2. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters on Wednesday that it was necessary to restart idled nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed, adding the central government was winning understanding from local authorities.
3. NY Times – More than a year after pledging to drop nuclear power, Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged that her ambition for a Germany that runs on renewable energy is falling behind schedule and faces a range of obstacles, not least the revamping of the energy grid at a cost of billions of euros.
Since passing the legislation last year, in the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan, Ms. Merkel’s own energies have been absorbed by the euro crisis and a series of regional elections. Last weekend she conceded that “we are behind on several projects.”
Indeed, just producing the power is not enough, it requires the infrastructure to distribute it — much of it from new parks of wind turbines off the northern coast — to southern states, which are home to many of Germany’s leading industrial companies.
Ms. Merkel, her new environment minister, Peter Altmaier, and her economy minister, Philipp Rösler held talks Tuesday with the main network operators, who have estimated the cost of the planned expansion of the energy grid at €20 billion, or nearly $25 billion, over the course of the next decade.