Westinghouse CEO Expects Japan to Restart Most Nuclear Reactors

Japan will probably restart most of its atomic reactors within “several years” after the country improved safety at the plants following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, according to Westinghouse Electric Corp.

“I’m pretty optimistic the Japanese nuclear fleet is going to restart,” Chief Executive Officer Danny Roderick said today in an interview. “It’s going to take several years but I can tell you that the sentiment has changed significantly.”

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors are shut after a tsunami that led to the atomic crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, forcing 160,000 people to be evacuated from the area. Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who won elections last year are pushing to restart the power stations to ease a shortage of energy supply and help breathe life into the country’s economy.

“The no-go on nuclear is having a severe impact on Japan’s balance of payments,” Mark Hibbs, a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment’s nuclear policy program, said by e-mail. “A reversal of Japan’s nuclear policy is no foregone conclusion.”

Any restart will need approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority that’s probing six plants on concerns that they were built on active fault lines. Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga plant may lie on an active quake fault line, the regulator says.

“I’ve met with members of the new government, I’ve also met with a lot of our customers over there, and they’re ready,” Roderick said after a briefing in Prague. “They’ve installed numerous safety modification enhancements, they’ve installed tsunami protection, and now they’re ready to start bringing the units back on line.” Westinghouse is owned by Toshiba Corp.