- Title: JAPAN-NUCLEAR/RESTARTS Japan begins restart of Sendai reactor
- Date: 11th August 2015
- Summary: FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI, JAPAN (FILE - 2011) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF THE AFTERMATH OF THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR PLANT AFTER THE 2011 MELTDOWN
- Embargoed: 26th August 2015 13:00
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAELZ03TXQBBSJPWL8ZK4GCO2VY
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Japan switched on a nuclear reactor for the first time in nearly two years on Tuesday (August 11) as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to reassure a nervous public that tougher standards mean the sector is now safe after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
"We already have had a clear decision on restarts and it is thus based on this decision that today's Sendai plant has started operations again," Japan's top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters on Tuesday.
Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be restarted to cut fuel imports, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
In the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier, the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant caused a release of radioactive material and forced 160,000 from their homes, with many never to return.
The crisis transfixed the world as the government and the Fukushima operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), fumbled their response and took two months to confirm that the reactors had undergone meltdowns.
Kyushu Electric Power began the restart of the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai plant at about 0130 GMT on Tuesday, a spokesman said. The reactor will take about 12 hours to go critical and a few days to reach full power, the company has said.
The plant on the west coast of Kyushu island is the furthest away of Japan's reactors from Tokyo, where protesters regularly gather outside Abe's official residence to oppose atomic energy.
At nearly 1,000 km (600 miles) from the capital, Sendai is closer to Shanghai or Seoul.
A successful restart would mark the culmination of a process whereby reactors had to be relicensed, refitted and vetted under tougher standards that were introduced following the disaster.
While two reactors were allowed to restart for one fueling cycle under the old standards in 2012, the whole sector has been shut down since September 2013, forcing Japan to import record amounts of expensive liquefied natural gas.
Of Japan's 25 reactors at 15 plants for which operators have applied for permission to restart, only five at three plants have been cleared for restart.
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