Japan is moving a step closer to restarting nuclear reactors as utilities are set to ask for safety inspections at their idled reactors, the clearest sign of Japan’s return to nuclear energy nearly two-and-a-half years after the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster.
With all but two of its 50 reactors offline since the crisis, Japan has been without nuclear energy that once supplied about a third of its power.
Four of nine Japanese nuclear plant operators — supplying the regions of Hokkaido, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu — will apply for safety inspections by the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a total of 10 reactors at five plants today, when new safety requirements take effect. Kyushu Electric Power Co is expected to apply for two more reactors at another plant later in the week.
The new standards are stricter than in the past and for the first time compulsory, and only reactors that pass the inspections will be allowed to reopen — possibly early next year. Each inspection could take several months, according to the watchdog, plus obtaining local consent may take another few weeks.