Japan Restarts Nuclear Plant Despite Protests

Japan Restarts Nuclear Plant Despite ProtestsJapan Restarts Nuclear Plant Despite Protests

Japan has restarted its first nuclear power plant under new safety rules following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

All Japan's nuclear plants were gradually shut down after a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima plant was sparked by the tsunami and earthquake, BBC reported.

There is still strong public unease about a return to nuclear power. Most of the Japanese public do not support the Sendai restart, according to a poll conducted by Mainichi newspaper earlier this month.

“Restart of Sendai is a sad day for Japan,” Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action, a Kyoto-based anti-nuclear power NGO established in 1991, said by email.

 “The NRA and Kyushu Electric should explain to the public what to expect with restart of the reactor, inform them of the measures that have been taken to avoid incidents and accidents, and obtain the public’s consent.”

Protesters, joined by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan who was in office during the Fukushima disaster, gathered outside the Sendai plant on Monday.

“In order to protect people and the environment, we will continue inspecting facilities under the current regulations,” NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said by email.

After passing stringent new safety tests, Kyushu Electric Power restarted the number one reactor at its Sendai plant on Tuesday morning.

A total of 25 plants have applied to be restarted, all are facing legal challenges from concerned locals.

Kyushu said reactor No.1 at Sendai began operating again at 10:30 local time (0130 GMT). TV images showed the plant's control room, as workers turned the reactor back on.

Kyushu Electric spokesman Tomomitsu Sakata said the reactor had gone back on stream without any problems.

It will be about 24 hours before a full reaction takes place and the plant is expected to start generating power by Friday. It will reach full capacity sometime next month.

Prime Minister Abe said on Monday the reactors had passed "the world's toughest safety screening".

"I would like Kyushu Electric to put safety first and take utmost precautions for the restart," he said.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority approved two reactors at the Sendai plant last September under stricter safety rules. The second reactor is due to be restarted in October. More than $100 million have been spent on fitting new safety systems at the Sendai plant.