KAGOSHIMA – A nuclear reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture resumed operation Thursday, becoming the second unit to restart after the government tightened safety regulations following the 2011 triple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 complex.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it reactivated the No. 2 reactor at its Sendai complex, about two months after the No. 1 reactor at the two-reactor plant began operating under what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government calls “the world’s toughest” safety rules.
The first restart in August ended a nearly two-year hiatus in the country’s nuclear power generation.
“There is no change in the government’s policy of proceeding with the restart of reactors that are approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as meeting the world’s most stringent and newest regulations,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular news conference.
The government plans to have nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply by 2030, compared with roughly 30 percent before the disaster at the Fukushima complex.
The government sees nuclear power as necessary to reduce Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions and wants to benefit from the relatively low production costs of nuclear power.
But the government’s energy mix goal still faces opposition with a majority of the public coming out against the restart of nuclear plants.
About 100 anti-nuclear protesters gathered in front of the Sendai facility in Satsumasendai on Thursday, demanding the utility stop the reactivation.
“The public wants to do away with nuclear power. Our voice of protest has been ignored, but we will continue to call for” abandoning nuclear power stations, said Hisashi Ide, 45, who joined the rally from Ehime Prefecture, which hosts one of three reactors that have obtained regulatory permission to restart.
But some residents said they had no choice but to accept the reactor resumption as it would help the local economy.
“If an accident occurs, I’m worried it could endanger (the health of) children,” a man in his 40s said in Satsumasendai. But he expressed his support for the restart, saying, “We have seen more people walking around the city after the No. 1 unit started operating.”
Kyushu Electric finished inserting 157 fuel rod assemblies into the No. 2 unit last month and had been working on final inspections since last Friday.
The power company will put top priority on ensuring safe operations with utmost caution, the utility’s president, Michiaki Uriu, said in a statement.
Kyushu Electric finished inserting a total of 157 fuel rod assemblies into reactor 2 last month and had been working on final inspections since last Friday.
The reactor will achieve stable atomic fission late Thursday night when it is expected to reach criticality.
A huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and led to the eventual shutdown of all of Japan’s commercial reactors by May 2012.
Two reactors were temporarily brought back online about two months later amid power shortage concerns, but they went offline for regular checks in September 2013, leaving Japan without nuclear power supply again.