Tokyo: Japan on Wednesday approved the full
resumption of commercial operations of an atomic reactor for
the first time since the March 11 quake and tsunami sparked
the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Hokkaido Electric Power Co. restarted commercial
operations at the Tomari plant`s reactor number three at 0700
GMT, shortly after receiving the official go-ahead from the
central government, a HEPCO spokesman told a news agency.
Almost three quarters of Japan`s 54 reactors are now
offline, mostly for regular safety checks, and many host
communities have been reluctant to approve their restarts as
anti-nuclear sentiment has grown in the quake-prone nation.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said he would like to phase
out nuclear power in the long term, but for now the Ministry
of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) wants to resume reactor
operations amid a summer electricity crunch.
Atomic plants met about one third of Japan`s energy needs
before the quake disaster, and business groups have warned
that power shortages spell a serious threat to industry in the
world`s third-biggest economy.
The number three reactor at the Tomari plant, on the
northern island of Hokkaido, had officially been in a test
phase, although it had been running for months and producing
electricity at full capacity.
Hokkaido`s Governor Harumi Takahashi, after local debate
on the plant`s safety, said today she had "no objection" to
the government declaring the safety test complete and allowing
a return to full operations.
Once she formally relayed the message, METI issued a
safety certificate allowing HEPCO to officially resume
A regular inspection of the reactor was launched in
January, and the unit was restarted in a so-called adjustment
operation on March 7, days before the earthquake. It has been
operating ever since.
METI`s nuclear watchdog agency said additional safety
tests that followed the quake were completed last week.