A reactor in southern Japan is set to restart from Tuesday, for the first time under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster and a milestone for the nation's return to nuclear power.
Kyushu Electric Power Co on Monday said it will restart the No 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant on Tuesday morning. The restart marks Japan's return to nuclear energy, breaking a four-and-half-year nuclear power impasse since the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan following the earthquake and tsunami.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority affirmed the safety of the reactor and another one at the Sendai plant in September under stricter safety rules imposed after the accident, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. The plans call for the second reactor to be restarted in October.
The Sendai No 1 reactor is scheduled to start generating power from Friday and reach full capacity next month.
All of Japan's nearly 50 workable reactors have been offline for repairs or safety checks. Abe's government wants as many of them as possible to be put online to sustain the nation's economy, which now relies on imported energy.
"We believe it is important for our energy policy to push forward restarts of reactors that are deemed safe," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
Under the basic energy plan adopted by the Cabinet last year to sustain nuclear power as a key energy supply for resource-poor Japan, the government earlier this year set a goal to have nuclear power meet more than 20 percent of the country's energy needs by 2030.
With its nuclear fuel recycling program still stalled and plutonium stockpiles triggering international concerns, Japan is under pressure to use as much of the stockpiles as possible in its reactors.
Despite the push by the government and utilities for nuclear restarts, a majority of Japanese are opposed to a return to nuclear energy. Residents near the Sendai plant are also wary of the restarts, citing potential dangers from active volcanos in the region.