• Kyodo

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The restart of reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture appears unlikely before January, as the plant’s operator only submitted the necessary documentation to regulators on Tuesday, months later than originally planned.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. submitted roughly 600 pages of documents concerning reactor 1 — one of two reactors at the complex that have obtained safety clearance by the Nuclear Regulation Authority — but that accounts for only a fraction of the operator’s 20,000-page construction plan, which needs to be submitted for the plant to be restarted.

Kyushu Electric had originally planned to submit the documentation to the NRA in late May. It plans to submit the remaining documents, including those regarding reactor 2, later this month, company officials said.

Given the time required to screen the construction plan, which includes building and equipment specifications, and for obtaining local consent for the restart, the Sendai plant is unlikely to come back online before January.

Also on Tuesday, the cities of Ichikikushikino and Hioki, which are located within a 30-km radius of the Sendai plant, demanded that the Kagoshima Prefectural Government seek their consent for the plant’s restart.

The move by the two localities comes as Kagoshima Gov. Yuichiro Ito has taken the position that approval by the prefectural government and the city of Satsumasendai, which hosts the nuclear power plant, would be sufficient to allow Kyushu Electric to restart the plant.

The municipal assembly of Ichikikushikino, which lies just 5 km from the facility, adopted a written statement by a majority vote urging the governor to also seek the city’s approval, saying a number of residents had signed petitions against restarting the plant following the start of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The governor should “fully respect” the opinions of the residents, the statement said.

The municipal assembly of Hioki unanimously adopted a similar statement the same day, stating “It is unacceptable to restart (the plant) without the city assembly and the mayor” approving it, as the municipality could also be held responsible in the event of a severe nuclear accident.

At a press conference on Tuesday, industry minister Yuko Obuchi, who oversees the power industry, said “Obtaining consent from local communities is not a legal requisite for a restart.”

Currently, all of Japan’s 48 commercial reactors remain offline due to safety concerns following the triple meltdown in Fukushima. The two-reactor Sendai plant is the closest to resumption after the NRA in September said it meets new, tighter safety regulations adopted in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

With only some of the documentation submitted to regulators on Tuesday, Kyushu Electric has missed its end-of-September deadline, set after it failed to meet its original end-of-May deadline.

“In addition to a heavy workload, we’ve had countermeasures for severe accidents and other new items to deal with, so there really is no precedent we can look to for a guide,” a company official said about the delay.