Japan conditionally approves restarting nuclear power plants

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Sept. 13, 2017 at 1:17 PM
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Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Japan is gradually moving to bring back online nuclear power plants that were idled following the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

The country's nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval to Tokyo Electric Power Co. to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday.

The Nos. 6 and 7 reactors in Niigata Prefecture are the same type of boiling-water reactors that are at the crippled plant in Fukushima.

Authorities have yet to make a final decision on what to do with radioactive water that has been accumulating at the site.

TEPCO, however, is under scrutiny for mishandling operations at Fukushima during the 2011 disaster.

On Tuesday, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority ordered TEPCO to provide a detailed explanation of steps it plans to take to ensure the operational safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

TEPCO may also meet resistance from Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who said he requires a completed investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster before nuclear plants come back online in his area.

TEPCO told Japan's nuclear authorities it will complete the decommissioning process in Fukushima but did not address the issue of radioactive or contaminated water, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Following the 2011 earthquake, Japan idled all 54 nuclear plants.

Five of them have returned online, with support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants cheap, clean energy to fuel Japan's recovering economy.

Nuclear energy provides 1.7 percent of Japan's electricity, significantly lower than the 30 percent before the 2011 earthquake.

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