The Japanese utility blamed for safety lapses in the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns has received its first approvals to operate reactors under stricter safety standards set since the 2011 disaster.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said yesterday that two reactors in northern Japan met the new standards after sufficient measures were taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. The authority unanimously approved a draft certificate for the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, a first step toward restarting them.
The approval becomes official after opinions are received from the public, regulators and the trade and industry minister. Then the reactors' startup could take months. Many people still oppose restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors because of concerns about TEPCO's safety records. Anti-nuclear activists rallied outside the regulation authority's building yesterday.
But the decision is a milestone for TEPCO, which has desperately sought to restart Kashiwazaki as a crucial step to improve its business plan. The company must cover huge costs needed to decommission the wrecked Fukushima plant, a decades-long process, and to cover compensation payments for hundreds of thousands of residents who fled their homes due to concerns about radiation leaks from the plant.