Ja­pan to restart 1st re­ac­tor with new rules since cri­sis


A power plant op­er­a­tor said it will restart a re­ac­tor in south­ern Ja­pan on Tues­day, the first restart un­der new safety re­quire­ments fol­low­ing the Fukushima dis­as­ter and a mile­stone for the na­tion’s re­turn to nu­clear power.

Kyushu Elec­tric Power Co. said Mon­day that it will restart the No. 1 re­ac­tor at its Sendai nu­clear plant Tues­day morn­ing.

The restart marks Ja­pan’s re­turn to nu­clear energy, break­ing a four- and- half- year nu­clear power im­passe since the 2011 melt­downs at the Fukushima Dai- ichi nu­clear power plant in north­east­ern Ja­pan fol­low­ing the earth­quake and tsunami.

The Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity af­firmed the safety of the re­ac­tor and another one at the Sendai plant in Septem­ber un­der stricter safety rules im­posed af­ter the ac­ci­dent, the worst since the 1986 Ch­er­nobyl ex­plo­sion. The plans call for the sec­ond re­ac­tor to be restarted in Oc­to­ber.

The Sendai No. 1 re­ac­tor is sched­uled to start gen­er­at­ing power Fri­day and reach full ca­pac­ity next month.

All of Ja­pan’s nearly 50 work­able re­ac­tors have been off­line for re­pairs or safety checks. Abe’s gov­ern­ment wants as many of them as pos­si­ble to be put online to sus­tain the na­tion’s econ­omy, which now re­lies on im­ported energy.

“We be­lieve it is im­por­tant for our energy pol­icy to push for­ward restarts of re­ac­tors that are deemed safe,” Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga told re­porters.

Un­der the ba­sic energy plan adopted by the Cab­i­net last year to sus­tain nu­clear power as a key energy sup­ply for re­sour­ce­poor Ja­pan, the gov­ern­ment ear­lier this year set a goal to have nu­clear power meet more than 20 per­cent of the coun­try’s energy needs by 2030.

Res­i­dents Op­pose

De­spite the push by the gov­ern­ment and util­i­ties for nu­clear restarts, a ma­jor­ity of Ja­panese are op­posed to a re­turn to nu­clear energy. Res­i­dents near the Sendai plant are also wary of the restarts, cit­ing po­ten­tial dan­gers from ac­tive vol­ca­noes in the re­gion.

On Mon­day, dozens of protesters ral­lied out­side the Sendai plant in a last- ditch ef­fort to stop the restart, shout­ing “We don’t need nu­clear plants.”

Op­po­nents of the restarts and nu­clear ex­perts are also con­cerned that evac­u­a­tion plans, in case of a dis­as­ter, may not work well.

Ex­perts also are con­cerned about pos­si­ble glitches in a moth­balled re­ac­tor that has not been used for more than four years.

With its nu­clear fuel re­cy­cling pro­gram still stalled and plu­to­nium stock­piles trig­ger­ing in­ter­na­tional con­cerns, Ja­pan is un­der pres­sure to use as much of the stock­piles as pos­si­ble in its re­ac­tors.

U. S. Un­der­sec­re­tary of State for Arms Con­trol and In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Rose Got­te­moeller told jour­nal­ists in a tele­con­fer­ence that Ja­pan should com­plete its pend­ing fuel re­cy­cling pro­gram and burn plu­to­nium as fuel called MOX at re­ac­tors.

Ja­pan has more than 40 tons of weapons- grade plu­to­nium, enough to make 40 to 50 nu­clear weapons. The ques­tion is whether Ja­pan can restart as many as 18 re­ac­tors needed to burn enough plu­to­nium, and whether the prob­lem- plagued Rokkasho re­pro­cess­ing plant in north­ern Ja­pan starts up.


This aerial file photo taken on July 7, shows re­ac­tors No. 1, right, and No. 2 at the Sendai Nu­clear Power Sta­tion in Sat­sumasendai, Kagoshima pre­fec­ture, south­ern Ja­pan.

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