Following the recent go-ahead given by Kagoshima Prefecture and the host city of Satsumasendai, Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear power plant is likely to be reactivated by early next year — the first under safety guidelines adopted in the wake of the March 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. But the move contains serious safety and procedural problems, and there is a risk that the Abe administration and power companies will use it as a precedent to rush the restart of more nuclear power plants without fully addressing the legitimate safety concerns of local residents.

Given the lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, municipalities within 30 km of a nuclear power plant are required to work out evacuation plans for residents in the event of a serious accident. In the case of the Sendai plant, eight municipalities, in addition to Satsumasendai, were required to draw up evacuation plans.

In a September meeting of the national government's nuclear disaster management council, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the evacuation plans as "concrete and rational" despite the absence of a formal procedure for the central government to examine such plans. It is unclear how detailed an examination the government gave the plans and whether it checked their operability against worst-case scenarios. Many local residents who took part in a series of explanatory meetings expressed concerns about safety — which are understandable given the procedural setup.