On Saturday, Japan’s government granted permission for a restart of two Kansai Electric Power Co. reactors at the Ohi plant – the first units to return to service since the accidents at Fukushima Daiichi last year.Japan’s nuclear plants provided 30 percent of the country’s power before Fukushima, and all 50 reactors are offline. Electricity shortages loom, and economists warn the country’s economy will suffer if more generation capacity is not brought online.Crews began work to bring Ohi units 3 and 4 back into service Saturday afternoon, immediately after approval from the prime minister that had been delayed by resistance by local political leaders. Key governors and mayors changed their positions for economic reasons in recent days, with the governor of Fukui where the plant is located formally giving his consent over the weekend.According to the World Nuclear Association, both units are 1,127 megawatt pressurized water reactors completed in the early 1990s. Kyodo News noted that their operation will erase a 15 percent power shortage anticipated for the region this summer. Nonetheless, it will still take several weeks for the reactors to resume operation, with KEPCO estimating unit 3 will reach full power July 8 and unit 4 on July 24.Polls have shown that a majority of Japanese still oppose the continued use of nuclear power, and Kyodo reported hundreds protested outside the prime minister’s office Saturday. Nonetheless, the Ohi restarts open the door to the operation of other plants shut down for routine inspections and maintenance that were kept offline following the Fukushima accidents by local political opposition. Kyodo suggested reactors at Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture and Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari plant on the island of Hokkaido may be the next to receive approval to restart.
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