Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Tuesday brought a fourth nuclear reactor back on line after local governments granted their approval.
The move practically ensures that power outages in the Kanto region this summer can be averted.
Tepco’s No. 4 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture was restarted in the afternoon after Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama and Kashiwazaki Mayor Masazumi Saikawa formally conveyed their consent to the central government.
The reactor was halted in January as part of a shutdown of all 17 Tepco reactors by the end of April in the wake of revelations last August that the utility falsified safety reports in a bid to cover up faults.
After subsequent inspections and repairs, Tepco has now managed to restart four reactors since May, the No. 4 being the first in which cracks were actually found.
Hirayama and Saikawa visited Tokyo and notified Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma of their approval for the resumption of the reactor. They later informed the utility of their consent.
Tepco shut down its reactors for the safety checks and repairs in a bid to regain public trust after the coverup. The move triggered concerns that the Tokyo area might experience power shortages during the summer months when energy demand is high. With the No. 4 reactor back in operation, power cuts in the Kanto region are now considered unlikely.
Hirayama and Saikawa have called for Hiranuma to re-evaluate how the nation’s reactors are managed.
They want the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, an organ of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, separated from METI to ensure its independence.
Hiranuma has shown reluctance to the idea, however.
After speaking with Hiranuma on Tuesday, Hirayama said he sensed a slight change in the minister’s position.
“The minister said the issue needs to be addressed with serious consideration given to the discussions on separation brought forward by the municipalities,” Hirayama told reporters.
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