UPDATE 1-Japan declares two idled reactors safe to restart

Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:36am EDT

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* Tokyo now to seek understanding of local communities

* Trade Minister Edano says to visit Fukui on Sat (Adds details, comment)

TOKYO, April 13 (Reuters) - Two idled Japanese nuclear reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co have been declared safe and will need to be restarted, Trade Minister Yukio Edano said on Friday.

These are the first units to be declared safe to restart since last year's Fukushima atomic crisis.

Edano told a news conference he, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and two other ministers agreed at a meeting the two reactors would be resilient against a severe event like last year's ma s sive March 11 earthquake and tsunami which wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo.

The four ministers also agreed the restart of the two units would be necessary to avoid a sudden power shortage in the summer, when Kansai's power supply may fall by up to 20 percent short of peak-hour demand according to the latest government estimate, Edano said.

The No.3 and No.4 units at Kansai's Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture in the west have cleared the government's technical review on resilience against a severe event like last March's earthquake and tsunami.

"We've confirmed safety and necessity for restart of the reactors, and we're now entering into a stage to seek understanding of local communities and the public," Edano said, adding he would visit and meet Fukui governor on Saturday to explain the central gov e rnment's assessments.

Local government agreement is not required by law, but Tokyo has made clear it is reluctant to override wary public opinion.

Before the Fukushima crisis, nuclear met more than 40 percent of the power need in Kansai's service region around Osaka, Japan's second-biggest metropolitan area and home to the factories of several top electronics makers.

Only one of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors remains in operation, as public worries over nuclear safety has left communities reluctant to approve restarts of reactors taken offline for routine maintenance. (Reporting by Risa Maeda and Yoko Kubota; editing by James Jukwey)

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