Japan's Sendai nuclear power plant
Japan's Sendai nuclear power plant

Japan today restarted its first nuclear reactor since the nation’s fleet was idled following 2011’s Fukushima Daiichi accident.

Operator Kyushu Electric Power said the 890 MW Sendai unit 1 reactor came online with no problems. The pressurized water reactor is expected to begin generating power this week, with output to be gradually increased and normal operation reached in early September. The company aims to restart a second reactor at the plant (pictured) in October.

Observers expect Japan to continue to bring its nuclear fleet back online as plants pass the stringent safety inspections put in place post-Fukushima. Of the nation’s 48 idled reactors, 25 have applied for restart permits and 20 are reportedly in various stages of the certification process.

However, a majority of Japanese people are still opposed to a nuclear restart, and demonstrators outside the Sendai plant reportedly clashed with police. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and some industry trade groups have pushed for the restart in order to reduce oil and gas imports and spiralling fuel bills.

“This is a hugely important step which sets the country firmly on the path to restoring its trade balance and regaining energy independence, as well as reducing emissions,” said Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association. “Going forward, it is essential that the nuclear industry works harder at building better relationships with the public as well as improving our performance and future technology offerings.”  

Japan’s nuclear regulator this week placed two reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) 8212 MW Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant on a priority list for safety screening, potentially accelerating the plant’s path to restarting.