Japan restarts nuclear plant despite widespread opposition
11 August 2015
On August 11, Kyushu Electric Power Company restarted the No.1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, the first to go back online under new regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. More than $100m (£64m) has been spent on fitting new safety systems at the Sendai plant.
If all goes to plan, the reactor is due to begin generating power in four days’ time, and after gradually raising output, it will be producing commercial quantities of electricity in early September.
The utility says it will watch carefully for any abnormalities in equipment operation, as the reactor has been offline for more than 4 years.
The 2-reactor Sendai plant last year cleared the new, rigorous regulations introduced after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It completed all necessary inspections on August 10.
The reactor is the first to go online since September 2013, when the Ohi nuclear plant in central Japan halted operations for maintenance.
All Japan's nuclear plants were gradually shut down after a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima plant caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A total of 25 units have applied to be restarted out of 44 operable reactors, but all are facing legal challenges from anti-nuclear protesters.
Experts have warned that reactors left idle for years tend to experience teething problems and that such a mass restart of dormant reactors has never been attempted before.
Prime Minister Shinto Abe said that 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.
An Asahi Shimbun survey in Kagoshima found 59% of respondents said they are opposed to the restart of the Sendai facility, while 23% said they agreed with the resumption of operations there. Many said they were worried about the plant’s proximity to active volcanoes.
This is broadly in line with national polls, where a majority say they are hostile to a resumption of nuclear generation in Japan.