Japan is still adrift in a sea of nuclear worry, and considering alternatives for its future. All the country’s reactors are still shut down, except two, here, at the power plant of Ohi, on the east coast. They were restarted in July, roughly 16 months after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami destroyed Fukushima.
The prime minister took the decision to re-boot Ohi reactors 3 and 4, based on the findings of geological safety groups. Ohi sits on a seismic fault line, however, and the specialists still can’t agree whether it’s active. Like most of Japan’s 54 reactors, the sea is just a stone’s throw away.
Although they are anxious about having the plant active again, residents in the region remember the rolling blackouts in the aftermath of last year’s disaster, with power shortages caused by the earthquake.
In Tamba, 80 km from Ohi, the 42 villagers have built a solar farm, on their own initiative. This has made them largely self-sufficient for electricity. They don’t yet have storage batteries, so at night and in poor weather they feed off the grid, but otherwise they contribute excess power to the grid and so break even.
Yasuhiro Hosoda, the man who got them started on the project, said the Fukushima disaster happened after they had begun building, and that it certainly gave them food for thought. They no longer want to rely on nuclear power.
The solar field is in the midst of unthreatening, traditional rice paddies. Most of the villagers are past age 60.
Farmer Tarsuro Yamada said: “As the Ohi reactor is back in operation, we really aren’t comfortable, what with everything that happened in Fukushima. In my opinion, if possible, they should reduce nuclear power or get rid of it in the future, and use renewable energy instead.”
The Ohi reactors were put online again after passing safety tests – in spite of public protests. They were judged capable of standing up to natural forces, but the government also promised to reinforce them in case of further earthquakes and tsunamis.