First nuclear reactor resumes full commercial operation in Japan after Fukushima crisis

First nuclear reactor resumes full commercial operation in Japan after Fukushima crisis
# 10 September 2015 21:05 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, started full commercial operation Thursday, making the plant the first to be brought fully back online following new safety regulations in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

On Aug. 11, the plant, which is located on the southwestern main island of Kyushu, was restarted following the utility maintaining its reactor was safe and the generation and distribution of electricity began the same day, although at a moderated capacity, until final clearance was given for the reactor to transmit to the grid at full capacity Thursday by Japan 's nuclear regulator.

Kyushu Electric said it is now planning to restart the second reactor at its Sendai facility in October, as the government is keen to bring all of the nation's reactors, idled in the wake of the 2011 triple disaster that caused multiple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Daichi facility in Fukushima Prefecture, sparking the world's worst commercial nuclear disaster, as import costs for fossil fuels have severely weighed on resource-poor Japan's balance sheet.

The utility said that once all two of its reactors are fired up, it expects its earnings to leap by 15 billion yen (125 million U.S. dollars) a month and its group net profit to hit 45 billion yen in the first half of this fiscal year.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press gathering Thursday that the government's expectation was that Kyushu Electric prioritize safety at the plant above all else, but the rebooting of the reactor has sparked local and national protests by civic groups and anti-nuclear factions who believe that some of Japan's aged reactors should not be brought back online for safety concerns.

However, Kyushu Electric was the first nuclear power plant in Japan to pass the stricter nuclear safety standards last September, and hence was the first power company to fire up a reactor in one year and 11 months since the last of the nation's reactors were taken off line for safety checks, following the Fukushima disaster.

But while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is actively pushing for other nuclear plants to up their safety standards in line with the tougher regulations and also restart the transmission of electricity to stem the outpouring of funds on fossil fuel imports, opposition parties have voiced their concerns.

Yukio Edano, former chief cabinet secretary of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, who in the wake of the 2011 disaster was very much the face of the government's efforts to combat the aftermath of the meltdowns and frequently appeared on TV to provide updates as the crisis unfolded, has publicly lambasted Kyushu Electric, as well as the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) who approved the restart, and the broader push by the LDP to bring all the nation's reactors back online.

He stated that preparedness for evacuations are not enough in the event of a nuclear accident. He also said that he could not understand the utility's and the government's rush to restart the reactor at the Sendai plant.

Despite the government heralding the NRA's new safety regulations as being "the toughest in the world", protests around the country have been fairly consistent and comprise anti-nuclear civic groups and private citizens opposed to Thursday's full launch of the reactor.

The latest media polls show that the majority of Japanese citizens still oppose the restart and this, among Abe's contentious security legislation, is weighing heavily on his support rate, which is hovering at an all-time low since he came to power for the second time in December 2012.