Japan utility blamed for Fukushima gets green light to restart reactors

Japan utility blamed for Fukushima gets green light to restart reactors”

Japan's nuclear watchdog on October 4 approved Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s safety measures taken to restart two reactors in Niigata Prefecture, the first such approval for the company since the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded.

In addition to assessing technical requirements, the NRA review focused on whether Tepco is qualified to once again operate a nuclear power plant as it struggles with work to scrap the Fukushima No. 1 complex - an effort expected to take until around 2051 - and reduce contaminated water around the crippled plant where radiation levels remain high. The authority's five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the restarts at a meeting on Wednesday.

The Fukushima meltdown was the world's worst nuclear accident since Russia's Chernobyl disaster and led to the eventual closure of all of Japan's nuclear power plants.

Greenpeace said 23 seismic faultlines ran through the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site. Then the reactors' startup could take months.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the governor of Niigata prefecture, where the plant is located, has said he will not discuss a restart at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa until the prefecture completes a review of the Fukushima disaster, and that could take until 2020 at the earliest.

"It looks like things are moving forward as if the Fukushima nuclear crisis is over", Hiroko Matsumoto, who lives in temporary housing, told Kyodo news.

The clearance of the two units is likely to be a boost for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is keen to retain nuclear power generation despite Japan experiencing the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex in March 2011, triggered by a massive quake and tsunami. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for a gradual return to nuclear power.

A go-ahead would be the first approval for reactors of the same basic design as those that melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi station in March 2011. The latest government estimate puts the cost of the disaster at 21.5 trillion yen ($191 billion).

Abe's government aims to increase nuclear energy to 20 per cent of Japan's energy mix by about 2030.

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