Japan reopens first nuclear reactor since Fukushima disaster

Japan is set to restart its first nuclear reactor while majority of country opposes restart plan after 2011 Fukushima meltdown

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Japan will start generating nuclear energy for the first time since the country closed all nuclear power plants after a tsunami hit the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, a power plant operator said on Monday.   

Despite all the protests from opponents, Kyushu Electric Power announced that the No 1 reactor at Sendai facility in Kagoshima Prefecture will reopen on Aug. 11 and is expected to come into operation on Aug. 14, it will reach full capacity in September.

Continuing its announcement, the company set the date for reopening of the Sendai’s No 2 reactor as mid October.

Supporters of the reactivation plan complain about the rising cost of gas and oil while opponents fear that history may repeat itself.

In 2011, the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami demolished the Fukushima nuclear facility. About 300,000 people were evacuated from the area after the diffusion of radioactive materials.

After the meltdown, Japan decided to end the activities of 43 nuclear plants throughout the country.The decision strained the country’s energy needs, making it dependent on imported energy sources and thus imposing an economic burden.

The recent public survey conducted by Japan’s Mainichi newspaper indicated that 57 percent of the respondents were against restarting the Sendai nuclear power plant, while just 30 percent supported the decision.  

The activists remain doubtful, because Kyushu Electric and local authorities haven't released an acceptable plan for evacuation for the residents in case the area faces another Fukushima-style disaster.

A representative of a group opposing the Sendai restart plan told the Guardian that  “There are schools and hospitals near the plant, but no one has told us how children and the elderly would be evacuated,” adding that, “Naturally there will be gridlock caused by the sheer number of vehicles, landslides, and damaged roads and bridges.”

Nearly 220,000 residents live their lives within a 30 km radius of the Sendai nuclear power plant. In an accident scenario the number of the affected people would rise to 900,000 since Kagoshima City is also within a 50 km radius of the facility, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The newspaper also reported that only two of 85 medical institutes and 15 of 159 nursing and other medical facilities within a 30 km radius of the Sendai nuclear power plant had proper evacuation plans.

Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany criticized the Japanese government for disregarding basic principles of nuclear safety and putting public health at risk.

“The same players in the ‘nuclear village’ that delivered Japan the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy in 2011 are attempting to kick-start nuclear power again.” Burnie said.

However the company claimed that the two reactors passed the new upgraded safety standards which were put in place by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, after the Fukushima disaster.

Japan Prime minister Shinzo Abe also backed the plan, saying in a news conference that safety will take priority in the planned reopening of Sendai nuclear power plant.

“We will ensure that safety comes first,” Abe told a news conference. “We will also work harder to win more support [for the restart],” Abe said.

He also pointed out the importance of the restart claiming that the reactors are vital for the growth of the country’s economy.

TRTWorld and agencies