Japan vows to restart nuclear reactors
Facing a sweltering summer and possible blackouts, the Japanese government is arguing it must restart some of its 50 idle nuclear reactors.
In a speech on national television, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared Japan could not do without its nuclear reactors.
There have been predictions that some parts of Japan could experience blackouts this summer, with supply falling short of demand by up to 20 per cent.
"I have decided that reactors three and four at the Ohi nuclear plant should be restarted in order to protect people's lives," he said.
The Ohi reactors in western Japan are believed to be the safest and best prepared of the country's 50 reactors to go back into service.
They could be powered into life as early as this week, ahead of the predicted summer swelter.
All Mr Noda needs now is approval from the governor of the prefecture where the reactors are located - and that looks like a formality.
But the prime minister only has to open a window at his residence to know not all Japanese are happy to see the reactors restarted.
About 1,000 protestors huddled together in the rain outside his Tokyo home this weekend, chanting "No to restarting nuclear plants".
"Prime Minister Noda wants to restart the nuclear reactors and I came here prepared to stop it at all costs," protestor Kahoru Toudo told the ABC.
"The government is saying that starting the reactors is for the economy and that it will be safe," demonstrator Daisuke Suzuki said. "I just don't believe that for a second."
A new poll suggests Japanese people oppose nuclear power more strongly than they did a year ago, when the crippled Fukushima plant was deep in crisis and the meltdowns had just been revealed.
The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre found 70 per cent of Japanese believe the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, up from less than 50 per cent last year.