Japan hopes to reassure public with new nuclear plant safety guidelines

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JAPAN is setting stricter safety guidelines for nuclear power plants to ease public concern about restarting reactors idled after the disasters a year ago.

Facing a national power crunch, the government is anxious to restart two reactors in Fukui, western Japan, before the last operating reactor of the 54 in the country goes offline in May.

But the government has faced strong public opposition due to the meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, and local leaders are reluctant to give their approval.

Authorities say the new safety guidelines are more extensive than past “stress tests,” which were essentially computer simulations meant to test how reactors would cope in the event of major earthquakes, tsunamis or other emergencies. Many questioned the objectivity of the tests and whether they guaranteed safety, even though two reactors passed the tests.

If utilities can show they meet the new guidelines, authorities hope the public will be convinced that the reactors are safe to restart, including the two in Ohi, Fukui prefecture.

The new guidelines, based on thirty recommendations adopted last month by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, require nuclear plants to install filtered vents that could reduce radiation leaks in case of an accident, as well a device to prevent hydrogen explosions, among other steps.