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Japan approves restart of Onagawa reactor closest to 2011 quake epicentre

Japan approves restart of Onagawa reactor closest to 2011 quake epicentre

The initial regulatory approval to restart a reactor at its Onagawa power plant was given to the Tohoku Electric Power, a local company. As Al Jazeera reports, after the 2011 tsunami, the station was swamped by the water but survived with its cooling system intact.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority made the decision to restart the No.2 reactor at the Onagawa power plant. Tohoku Electric Power company has received a first green light this week to start the preparation works.

Since 2011, nine reactors have been restarted, all of them pressurised water reactors located far from the capital, Tokyo, while the stigma of Fukushima still hangs over the use of the older boiling water reactor (BWR) technology.

Onagawa power plant situated in the country’s northeast closest to the epicentre of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011. The natural disaster triggered a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, as well as causing the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Over the years, the restarting of the Onagawa reactor was a subject to public consultation. Since 2011, Tohoku Electric Power patiently waited for the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision.

Onagawa nuclear plant was lucky to save its three reactors from the threat of meltdowns similar to those that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi station to the south. However, further approvals will be needed before the restart, along with the consent of local authorities, which is not guaranteed.

The first approval was given after the addition of anti-disaster measures totalling some $, including constructing a towering seawall. Other measures are still awaiting completion.

The nuclear reactor: new technology is coming

The reactor is a BWR with the same basic design as those that melted down in Fukushima. Onagawa plant’s No.1 reactor is scheduled for decommissioning, while Tohoku Electric Power has yet to make a decision on the fate of the No.3 reactor.

While the approval will be a boost for Japan’s resurgent nuclear industry, the sector is still set to miss a government target of providing at least a fifth of the country’s electricity by 2030.

After meeting with the victims of Fukushima, Pope Francis said nuclear energy should not be used until there are ironclad guarantees that it is safe for people and the nature.