40% of firms welcome restart of Sendai plant in Kyushu: Kyodo survey

About 40 percent of major companies in the Kyushu and Okinawa areas in southwestern Japan said they welcome the proposed restart of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear plant in that region, a Kyodo News survey showed Friday.

The two-unit Sendai plant located in a region of active volcanic sites is the closest among Japan's 48 offline commercial reactors being allowed to restart as it is in the final stage of a safety review process by nuclear regulators.

Of the 54 firms that responded to the survey, 23 gave their nod to the restart while another 23 companies said they could not say whether they were for or against it, and the remaining eight chose not to answer.

The survey showed that while there was no firm that openly declared opposition to the restart, some questioned the safety of restarting the reactors when they were asked further about their neutral stance.

All of the nation's nuclear reactors remain offline as utilities can only restart their reactors after passing the nuclear regulators' safety screening based on new regulations introduced in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The survey found that 15 firms said, in multiple answers, that they welcome restarting the Sendai plant because of the "need for a stable supply of electricity," while 11 firms said they hoped the restart would revitalize the economy in the Kyushu region.

Five companies said they favor the restart because it could lead to lower electricity rates and help improve their businesses.

For those who answered that they can neither support nor oppose the restart, five firms said the safety of operating the reactors would still be in question even after getting a safety clearance.

Four firms said that the restart has not been well coordinated with the local community yet and three companies said restarting the Sendai plant is a premature decision when the Fukushima crisis is still ongoing.

Asked whether they would be in favor of further raising electricity rates in the event the restart is delayed, 13 said they are opposed, two were in favor, and 31 remained neutral.