TOKYO Ė Japanís Nuclear Regulation Authority gave on Wednesday the go-ahead in the first steps to restart a nuclear plant hit by the 2011 tsunami triggering the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The nearly 40-year-old Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant, located about 130 kilometers (80.8 miles) northeast of Tokyo in Ibaraki prefecture, would still need two clearances by the regulator and authorization from local authorities.
The plant suffered an automatic emergency shutdown when it was hit by waves of up to 5.4 meters high triggered by a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake in the region which left more than 18,000 dead and missing. The catastrophe led to the second worst nuclear disaster in the history after Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986.
One of Tokai No. 2ís three emergency power generators was left incapacitated, but another two remained intact, allowing the reactor to cool down in the days after the disaster.
The power plant was cut off from its external power source after the incident.
The NRA has toughened its safety norms, which in principle prohibit the operation of reactors beyond the age of 40 years, a period that could be extended for another 20 years if operators upgrade safety measures and pass regulator screenings.
Safety measures presented by the owner of the plant, Japan Atomic Power, included construction of coastal levees to deal with potential waves of up to 17.1 meters high, and the reinforcement of energy sources, NRA said in its authorization report.
However, the company has not compiled an emergency evacuation plan covering 960,000 residents, the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in Japan due to its location in a metropolitan area.
After first approval on Wednesday, the plant needs to clear two more screenings that the regulator is set to carry out in November, when it turns 40.