Nuclear reactor in central Japan back online, joins 2 units nearby
FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted Wednesday a reactor at its Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast, located close to two other units already online, stirring safety concerns but also expectations for stable energy supply and lower electricity prices among businesses.
It is the first time that three nuclear reactors in the same area have been in operation since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The No. 3 Oi unit is 14 kilometers from the No. 3 and 4 units at the Takahama plant, all in the central Japan prefecture of Fukui.
Dozens of people gathered in front of the No. 3 Oi reactor and the headquarters of Kansai Electric in the city of Osaka, western Japan, to demand the reactor be halted. Many residents are worried about the lack of an effective evacuation plan in the event accidents hit both the Takahama and Oi complexes at the same time.
Yukihiro Higashiyama, a 71-year-old farmer in Takahama in Fukui, said, "Restarting the reactor is intolerable. I'm afraid it will turn out to be like the Fukushima Daiichi plant."
Meanwhile, Kansai Economic Federation, a business body based in Osaka, said, "All nuclear power plants that have been confirmed as safe should be restarted. We are hoping for stable energy supply and low electricity prices, while putting safety as a top priority."
Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said in a statement, "We will carefully take steps forward placing top priority on safety."
The No. 3 Oi unit is the sixth reactor to resume operation in Japan after clearing stricter safety regulations implemented in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which views nuclear power as an "important base-load power source," is promoting the restart of nuclear reactors considered safe by regulators.
Under the current national energy policy, the government plans to generate between 20 and 22 percent of total electricity using nuclear power in fiscal 2030.
Kansai Electric aims to commence commercial operation of the No. 3 Oi reactor in early April. The No. 4 reactor at the Oi plant is also expected to restart in May, having cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority's safety review along with the No. 3 unit in May 2017.