TOKYO – Japanese authorities approved on Wednesday the reactivation of two nuclear reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power, which were shut down after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said in a press conference in Tokyo that it has approved the activation of reactors 6 and 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, located in the Niigata prefecture, after they were found to be in compliance with tougher safety standards post the Fukushima disaster.
The reactors, however, will only be functional after consultations with the local population and the regional government, a process which could take up to 3-4 years, Niigata governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said in a statement published by Kyodo news agency.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex is one of the biggest in the world with a total output capacity of 8.2 million megawatts and is the first plant operated by TEPCO to receive approval from the NRA to restart operations.
The local government, people who were displaced by the Fukushima disaster, and environmental groups have opposed the step, calling it a grave risk for the population in case of an earthquake or a tsunami.
“TEPCO should abandon its futile efforts to restart seismically vulnerable reactors and instead focus on dealing with the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi,” Greenpeace Japan said in a statement.
Only 5 of Japan’s 42 nuclear reactors are currently operational, due to opposition by citizens and local authorities, which has hindered Japan’s return to nuclear energy production.
Due to its enormous capacity, the Niigata facility is key to the energy model promoted by President Shinzo Abe’s government, which supports a return to nuclear energy in order to tackle the lack of other energy resources in Japan.
In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, the Fukushima plant had suffered the worst nuclear disaster (since the one at Chernobyl in 1986), that had displaced thousands of people and adversely affected local businesses.