After a lengthy review, which began in September 2013, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) of Japan has cleared two of Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco) nuclear reactors for restarts, establishing several firsts since the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Generating Station.
Clearance of the two reactors – the 13th and 14th in Japan to pass regulatory safety reviews since the Fukushima accident – comprises the first two boiling water type reactors to pass the regulatory review based on new, stringent safety standards. They are also the first two reactors to make it this far in their efforts to restart at the Kahiwazaki-Kariwa facility, one of the largest nuclear power facilities in the world with an aggregate of 8.2 million kilowatts of capacity, according to The Japan Times. Furthermore, they are the first Tepco-owned reactors to be re-certified, an emotional and potentially stigma-mitigating development for Tepco, which owned and operated the Fukushima plant.
Tepco had to prove to the NRA that it was capable of managing the operations of a nuclear power plant. Further, the company had to do that while bearing the enormous burden and cost of cleaning up the Fukushima disaster site, which is expected to take as long as 60 years to complete.
Public comments concerning the restarts were split in the middle, the newspaper reports say, half in favor of restarts, half opposed. Some were vitriolic in their dismissal of Tepco as an owner/operator of a nuclear power plant.
Public sentiment will play an increasingly important role in the continuing process for Tepco, as the next hurdle for restarts of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Units 6 and 6 in the Niigata Prefecture are local government approvals and, predictably, court challenges to the NRA's ruling. Ryuichi Yoneyama, the current governor of the Niigata Prefecture said a government review of the NRA's decision would be thorough, taking “at least three to four years.”
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