Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Authorities have signed off on a nuclear reactor that was damaged eight years ago during the events that caused Japan's worst-ever nuclear accident, but the unit still needs local approval before it can go back online.
The No. 2 unit at Tohoku Electric Power's Onagawa plant was cleared to restart by Tokyo's nuclear watchdog Wednesday. The power company is spending $3.1 billion on safety measures that include a seawall that runs for a half-mile and reaches about 95 feet above sea level.
"We've reached a key milestone," Tohoku Electric President Hiroya Harada said in a statement, adding that other safety measures and tests are in progress.
Though the unit received approval from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, it now must pass local inspections and meet heightened safety standards.
The Onagawa plant was the closest nuclear facility to the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused three separate core meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant in March 2011. The nuclear disaster was the most severe since the accident at the Chernobyl power station in modern-day Ukraine. The tremor caused an automatic shutdown of the plant's three reactors.
About 80 percent of the homes in Onagawa were damaged.
"Nuclear reactors deemed to have satisfied the new regulation requirements, the world's strictest, can resume operations after securing local consent," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. "There's no change in our stance."
If it passes all inspections, the Onagawa plant will become just the second reactor damaged by the 2011 disaster to go back online. A reactor at the Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture has already cleared the more stringent standards adopted after the Fukushima accident.