National

Two Oi reactors clear regulator safety review, paving way for restart

Kyodo

The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally confirmed Wednesday that two reactors on the Sea of Japan have met safety standards, paving the way for their restart as early as this fall.

The authority gave final approval to a report submitted by Kansai Electric Power Co. on the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, bringing the number of reactors that have met the standards introduced after the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant to 12 at six power stations.

For the restart, Kansai Electric still has to pass on-site, pre-operational reviews by the authority and obtain approval from the Fukui Prefectural Government.

The utility said in a statement it will “make utmost effort for the early restart of nuclear plants whose safety has been confirmed by gaining the understanding of local residents.”

Although the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promoted the restart of reactors, most remain offline amid safety concerns of local residents following the 2011 nuclear disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The nuclear safety watchdog gave the green light to the restart of the reactors despite a pending lawsuit filed by local residents seeking to block the resumption of operations. Kansai Electric has appealed a Fukui District Court ruling in 2014 that banned it from running the two reactors due to safety concerns.

Seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki, a former commissioner of the NRA, has warned that the authority may have underestimated quake hazards at the Oi plant.

Kansai Electric applied for the screening of the two reactors at the Oi plant in July 2013. With Wednesday’s approval, all of its seven nuclear reactors at three power stations for which the utility has sought screening have cleared the safety standards.

Of the seven, the No. 4 reactor at Takahama plant in Fukui restarted operation on May 17, while the No. 3 reactor of the same plant is expected to get back online in early June.

Taizo Mikazuki, the governor of neighboring Shiga Prefecture, said in a statement: “Considering that the people of Shiga are still deeply worried about the safety of the nuclear plant, conditions are not set for us to accept its restart.” Mikazuki said the central government and Kansai Electric should take strict safety measures and are responsible for offering proper explanations to alleviate concerns.