A nuclear plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. obtained a safety clearance from regulators Wednesday, becoming the first to meet new regulations imposed following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
With the approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the two reactors at the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture moved a step closer to restarting. Currently all of the nation’s 48 commercial reactors are offline.
The pro-nuclear government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to bring reactors back online amid a surge in fossil fuel costs for thermal power generation, which has made up for the absence of atomic power.
A restart of the Sendai plant, however, is not likely to happen before December, as Kyushu Electric must still finish paperwork needed to complete the NRA screening process.
The regional utility must also obtain consent from local authorities and undergo on-site operational checks.
On Wednesday, the watchdog’s decision-making panel approved the final version of its screening report, which included public comments.
The NRA said Aug. 19 that it had received some 17,000 comments from the public on the draft version of the report the panel completed on July 16.
The nation’s 48 commercial reactors, including the two at the Sendai complex, have not been allowed to resume operating amid safety concerns after being shut down for mandatory regular checkups or other reasons.
The new, more stringent safety standards introduced in July last year set a higher hurdle for reactors to operate in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The Sendai plant, located on the southwestern coast of the main island of Kyushu, emerged in March as the leading candidate for resumption after clearing key hurdles related to earthquake and tsunami hazards that could affect the plant.
So far, power companies have applied for regulator’s safety screening of a total of 20 nuclear reactors at 10 nuclear power plants.