Nuke plant in southern Japan clears safety hurdle

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOKYO (AP) — A nuclear power plant in southern Japan won regulators' approval Wednesday for meeting safety requirements imposed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, a key step toward becoming the first reactor to restart under the tighter rules.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority formally approved an inspection report for the Sendai Nuclear Power Station's two reactors. The authority concluded that the reactors were in compliance with new regulations designed to avoid major damage during disasters such as the massive earthquake and tsunami that caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Five authority commissioners unanimously endorsed approval of the inspection report, following a 30-day review of it. During the process, regulators read around 17,000 questions and comments from the public and experts regarding technical and scientific details about Sendai's reactors, reflecting the huge public interest over their safety and possible restart.

The authority, however, has no say over a restart of the plant, and it likely will be several months before Sendai's reactors are back online. The plant, which is operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., still faces an on-site operational inspection and must also get consent from local authorities.

Still, the safety approval for the plant and its expected restart marks a big boost for Japan's nuclear industry.

All of the country's 48 remaining reactors have been offline since the 2011 disaster for safety checks and repairs, except for two that had briefly operated under the old safety standards.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will put all reactors deemed safe back online, reversing a nuclear phase-out policy adopted by the previous government.

Abe's government has been pushing for nuclear plant restarts despite strong public opposition, saying a prolonged shutdown hurts Japan's economy.