TOKYO: Japan’s nuclear watchdog said yesterday that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on, marking a major step towards restarting the country’s nuclear plants which were shuttered after the Fukushima crisis.
But fresh protests -- and accusations that the regulator is a puppet of the powerful atomic industry -- have highlighted the challenges Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces in bringing back a technology that many Japanese have forever sworn off.
Abe has been trying to convince a wary public that the world’s third largest economy needs to return to an energy source which once supplied more than a quarter of its power.
Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since an earthquake and tsunami more than three years ago caused a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant -- the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) officials yesterday issued a more than 400 page safety report on the Sendai plant in southern Japan, technically giving its operator the green light to switch on its reactors -- the first since Japan ushered in tougher regulations last year.
But any restart was unlikely before autumn at earliest, following a month-long public consultation period and winning agreement from local communities. AFP