Japan restarts nuclear plant

Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Company has restarted a reactor at its Ohi nuclear power plant after a 15 month break. The move has been met with protest, as tens of thousands have rallied throughout Japan since March in opposition to nuclear energy.

Ever since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government moved forward with the decision to restart some of the country’s nuclear reactors on June 16, there has been a chain of demonstrations against renewal of nuclear energy in Japan.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tokyo on Friday carrying banners to protest a return to nuclear power in Japan. Protesters surrounded Noda’s residence in central Tokyo to make sure their message would not be ignored.

Despite massive public opposition, the government refused to reconsider its decision on practical grounds. Prior to the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan drew approximately 30 per cent of its energy from nuclear power. The closure of nuclear power plants has created an energy vacuum, with supplies falling short by 14 per cent in Tokyo and up to 16 per cent in western Japan.

Kansai Electric Power Company went ahead with preparations to bring the Ohi plant back online, reporting it has completely checked the reactor’s cooling system to ensure it is fully operable.

At 9 pm local time (12:00 am GMT) on Sunday, reactor #3 of the Ohi nuclear power plant in western Japan will be restarted in the presence of Seishu Makino, Japan’s senior vice industry minister.

By Monday the reactor is expected to reach the critical stage of self-sustainable chain reactions resulting from nuclear fission. Two days later the reactor will start generating electricity. Four more days are needed for it to start operating at full capacity.

It will be the first nuclear reactor to have been restarted in Japan since a powerful magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the Fukushima nuclear power plant, whose fallout was reportedly four times greater than that of Chernobyl.

There have been no officially registered deaths as a direct result of the radioactive noble gas release, but tens of thousands of Fukushima province citizens had to leave their houses. Their native land will remain uninhabitable for many decades to come.

But the nuclear reactor restart at Ohi is not going to be the only one. The operator of the Ohi nuclear plant is set to restart reactor #4 on July 17, whereby it will be working at full capacity the following week.

Both reactors have been monitored 24-hour and thoroughly checked since the government took the decision to return to nuclear energy two weeks ago.

In early May 2012 Japan shut down the last of its 50 working nuclear reactors, leaving the country without electricity generated from nuclear power for the first time since 1970.

RT

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