Japan nuclear plant gets initial safety approval to restart

A nuclear plant in southern Japan has been granted preliminary approval to restart under new rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Since then all of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been gradually taken offline but the initial green light from the regulator could pave the way for a return to nuclear power.

Yet fears persist among protesters who showed their disapproval of the move by demonstrating outside the offices of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. It will make a final decision on the two reactors at the Sendai plant after a month-long public consultation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart all 48 nuclear reactors, as a prolonged shutdown forces Japan to rely on expensive fossil fuel imports.

“I think they will conduct a reliable safety review in order to ease the worries of the public,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary and top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, reacting to the regulator’s announcement on Sendai.

An earthquake and tsunami crashed into the Fukushima plant in March 2011, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Battling to tackle the contamination, plant operator Tepco is building a massive underground ice wall to contain leaking radioactive water.