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Japan Could Restart Nuclear Reactor Damaged In 2011 Disaster

A local governor in Japan has approved plans from utility Tohoku Electric Power to restart one of its nuclear reactors that was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and the following tsunami, the same that caused the reactor meltdown at Fukushima.

Tohoku Electric Power received approval from the governor of Miyagi Prefecture, Yoshihiro Murai, to restart unit 2 at the Onagawa nuclear power plant, a spokesman for the company told Reuters.

The Onagawa nuclear power was swamped by the 2011 tsunami but had its cooling system intact, unlike the Fukushima plant south of Onagawa where the loss of reactor core cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns and to the worst nuclear disaster in the world since Chernobyl in 1986.

Immediately after the Fukushima disaster, Japan closed all its nuclear reactors, more than 50 at the time, which were providing one-third of Japanese electricity generation.

Japanese authorities have inspected all reactors and re-licensed some to resume operation in recent years. The first two reactors to restart after the March 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi did so in August and October 2015. Since then, another seven nuclear reactors have restarted, and 18 are at various stages in the process of restart approval, according to data from the World Nuclear Association as of September 2020.

The reactor at Tohoku Electric Power’s Onagawa nuclear power plant still has other authorizations to obtain before restarting.

In its strategy for the medium and long term, the company said in February this year that “On the premise of secured safety, we will aim for the prompt restart of Onagawa Nuclear Power Unit 2 with the local community’s understanding.” 

Last month, Japan pledged to become a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, joining the UK and the European Union (EU) in those commitments. Due to the closure of nuclear reactors after Fukushima, Japan relies on coal for around a third of its electricity generation.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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