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« Kalapakkam nuclear power plant to be commissioned in 2015 | Main | The rise and fall of nuclear power, in 6 charts »

Flicking the switch

Nuclear power in Japan

Restarting nuclear plants is unpopular but crucial for Shinzo Abe

WHEN he was a student in Satsumasendai, Ryuichi Somekawa was taken on trips to the nuclear-power museum next door to the reactors of the Sendai plant. The museum, which is still open, amounts to a lavish public-relations effort extolling nuclear safety, yet he remained fearful. Now Satsumasendai in Kagoshima prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu, southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, is likely to be the country’s first city to approve the restart of a nuclear plant. The Fukushima disaster in 2011 led to the mothballing of all of Japan’s 48 reactors. Like many residents, Mr Somekawa, who is now 47, is dismayed at the news, but he says the decision is well-nigh inevitable.

The final word will come from the governor of Kagoshima prefecture and from Satsumasendai’s mayor. Operations are expected to resume in the autumn. Japan will still need to power itself through a sweltering summer without nuclear energy. Conventional power stations, some formerly idle, have so far saved the economy from power cuts. The pro-nuclear government of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, hopes a restart at the Sendai plant can open the way for a dozen or more reactors to resume operations.

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The miners have started 2014 very well indeed on the back of rising gold prices, so the question is; is this the real deal or another head fake? Is the bottom really in? Could there be a final capitulation just ahead of us? Will the summer doldrums take the PMs lower?

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