* Japanese public wary, split on nuclear power
* Government likely to await ruling by authorities in
* Critics say government too hasty in seeking restart of
* Govt mulls mandatory power cuts
* Kansai Electric consumers may face 20 pct power cut goals
(Adds info from govt draft document on Kansai region, power
By Linda Sieg and Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, May 14 The local assembly in a Japanese
town that hosts a nuclear plant agreed on Monday it was
necessary to restart two off-line reactors, its chairman said,
the first such nod since all the country's stations were halted
after the Fukushima crisis.
But further discussion lies ahead before reactors No. 3 and
No. 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co's Ohi plant in
western Japan can be reconnected to the grid.
With power shortages looming in the region when demand peaks
this summer, the central government has been trying to win
approval from towns and prefectures that host reactors. All 50
reactors are off-line since the last one shut down for
maintenance on May 5.
Businesses and consumers in Kansai region, served by Kansai
Electric Power Co, could be asked to cut electricity
use by 20 percent this summer compared to 2010 levels, according
to a government draft document released on Monday.
The government will consider whether to issue a mandatory
power cut order for corporate users in Kansai, which includes
the vast Osaka metropolitan area, or impose rolling blackouts in
several regions, the document also showed.
It will reach a conclusion in about a week.
Mandatory restrictions were imposed in some regions last
year after the Fukushima crisis, the worst since the 1986
Chernobyl explosion, with three reactors suffering meltdowns
after the plant was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami.
Kansai Electric's service region, which relied on nuclear
power for more than 40 percent of its generation before the
Fukushima crisis, may see a 14.9 percent shortage in August, a
government panel concluded on Saturday.
But if four other utilities can cooperate on power
conservation, this may help make up for shortfalls in Kansai and
reduce its power saving goal to 15 percent, the document said.
"We want to avoid issuing a mandatory power saving order,
but we need to think of various measures in the case of an
emergency," a government official told reporters.
The central government last month said the two reactors in
Ohi, Fukui prefecture, 360 km (225 miles) west of Tokyo, were
safe to restart.
Officials must still win over a wary public - including
residents of regions close enough to be at risk from a nuclear
accident but too distant to reap economic rewards. Delays in
setting up a new nuclear regulatory agency due to disputes in
parliament have further spooked voters.
Kinya Shintani, chairman of Ohi town assembly, said the
local economy had been affected by the shutdowns.
"Largely understanding the necessity of nuclear power and
taking into consideration residents' opinions as well as the
impact on consumers' livelihoods and the economy, we decided to
agree to a restart," he said in a statement.
Ohi received about 2.5 billion yen ($31 million) in
subsidies in the financial year to March 2010 related to Kansai
Electric's four reactors. Many jobs also depend in some way on
The central government has no legal obligation to win local
approval, but is unlikely to proceed with restarts without the
agreement of the host town and prefectural government. It is
uncertain, however, that authorities would override opposition
from nearby prefectures with public opinion divided.
A weekend survey by the pro-nuclear power Yomiuri newspaper
showed that 45 percent of respondents backed restarting reactors
deemed safe and an equal number were opposed.
Some critics say the government is making undue haste to get
reactors up and running because surviving peak summer demand
without nuclear power would make it hard to convince the public
that atomic energy is vital.
Environmental group Greenpeace said the government's
"reckless push" to get reactors back in service "has left many
communities thinking they have to choose between risks to their
health and safety, and risks to their jobs and prosperity.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, Japan's biggest utility
and the owner of the Fukushima pant, posted on Monday an annual
loss of almost $10 billion as compensation claims for the
radiation disaster soar and fuel costs grew after idling all its
Nuclear power produced nearly 30 percent of Japan's
electricity before the crisis. The government is working on a
energy mix policy it hopes to unveil this summer, replacing a
programme that had aimed to boost the share of atomic power to
more than 50 percent by 2030.
($1 = 79.8800 Japanese yen)
(Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ron Popeski)