Chubu Electric Power Co. applied Tuesday for Nuclear Regulation Authority safety screening so it can restart the No. 3 reactor at its Hamaoka nuclear plant.
Located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, the facility is in a region that studies suggest could be devastated by a major earthquake.
Chubu Electric said it plans to take measures by September 2017 to enhance the safety of the No. 3 unit against risks from earthquakes and tsunami.
In February 2014, it applied for a safety assessment of the No. 4 unit. It and the No. 5 reactor were shut down in May 2011 after Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan requested that operations be suspended amid fears that a powerful earthquake predicted in the area could trigger another nuclear crisis. The Fukushima disaster was playing out at the time.
Residents in Shizuoka Prefecture expressed mixed reaction Tuesday.
“I can’t trust the safety of a nuclear plant even if it passes the screening,” said a woman in her 40s who operates a shop in Omaezaki.
A man in his 60s who owns a business in the city said the plant should not be restarted.
“Higher electricity bills are hitting my business hard, but that can’t be traded for safety,” he said.
Katsushi Hayashi, who belongs to a local citizens’ group, said the application for restart “goes against the will of the people in Shizuoka.”
However, some residents said the restart may be necessary for development of the local economy.
“It’s true that many people have jobs thanks to the Hamaoka plant, although I support phasing out nuclear power,” said a 43-year-old housewife who lives near the plant.
A man in his 30s who works at a local restaurant said, “We have no choice but to allow the restart if it would contribute to the local economy.”
At the time of the Fukushima disaster, the No. 3 unit at the five-reactor Hamaoka plant was offline for scheduled maintenance and inspections. Reactors 1 and 2 ended commercial operation in 2009.
Chubu Electric wants to resume power generation at the complex as soon as possible to reduce its reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.
Currently all of Japan’s commercial reactors remain offline pending NRA safety reviews. Prior to the Fukushima disaster they provided nearly a third of the nation’s power.
The NRA’s current safety standards were adopted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
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