Kansai Electric Power Co. on Wednesday restarted a reactor at its Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast, located close to two other units already online, amid lingering safety concerns following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
It is the first time that multiple nuclear reactors in the same area have been in operation since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The No. 3 reactor at the Oi plant is a mere 14 km from the Nos. 3 and 4 units at the Takahama plant, all in the central Japan prefecture of Fukui.
Local residents are worried about the lack of an effective evacuation plan in the event accidents hit both the Takahama and Oi complexes at the same time.
The No. 3 Oi unit is the sixth reactor to resume operations in Japan after clearing stricter safety regulations implemented in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seeing nuclear power as an "important base-load power source," is promoting the restart of nuclear reactors considered safe by regulators. Under the current national energy policy, the government plans to generate between 20 and 22 percent of total electricity using nuclear power in fiscal 2030.
Kansai Electric aims to start commercial operations of the No. 3 Oi reactor in early April. The No. 4 reactor at the plant is also expected to restart in May, having cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority's safety review along with the No. 3 unit in May 2017.
Fukui hosts several nuclear plants, with local communities relying on the economic benefits that an influx of plant workers could bring to shops and other businesses.