Japanese governor, local assembly approve restart of Sendai nuclear power plant

A restart of the Sendai nuclear plant is not likely to happen until next year.

Authorities in Japan have approved the restart of a nuclear plant, paving the way for a revival of the stalled industry more than three years after the Fukushima disaster. The move represents a victory for the government of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, which has defended the importance of nuclear power for the country. The Sendai plant, which is located in Kagoshima prefecture, 1,000 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, won an important endorsement for the restart from the local township last month.


In a vote on Friday( 7 November), 38 of the 47 members of Kagoshima's prefectural assembly backed the restart.


Kagoshima governor Yuichiro Ito also gave his approval, clearing the final hurdle for the restart of the facility.


"I have decided that it is unavoidable to restart the No. 1 and No. 2 Sendai nuclear reactors," he told reporters, Japan's public broadcaster NHK showed.


"I have said that assuring safety is a prerequisite [for restart] and that the government must ensure safety and publicly explain it thoroughly to residents."


The Sendai plant is still unlikely to reopen until next year as the utility still needs to pass operational safety checks.


Kagoshima held several townhall meetings in areas closest to the nuclear plant ahead of the vote, but some residents complained that they were restricted from asking about evacuation plans.

Residents opposed to the restart lined the street outside the prefectural building, holding placards and flags protesting against the decision.


Screams and yelling from opponents of the restart drowned out the final vote.


Japan has said it would defer to regional authorities to approve any restart.


The Sendai plant now faces few obstacles, having secured approval from the host city, its mayor, the prefectural assembly and now an official endorsement from its governor.


If the move goes through, the Sendai reactors would become the first to restart under a new, independent regulator formed after a massive earthquake and tsunami set off multiple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.


Japan has been forced to import expensive fossil fuels to replace atomic power, which supplied around 30 per cent of the country's electricity before the 2011 disaster.


Meanwhile, three workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have been injured after steel construction material collapsed on them.


Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said the men were building a 13-metre-high tank that was intended to store water used to cool broken reactors.


One of the three was knocked temporarily unconscious, a TEPCO spokesman said, and remained in a critical condition in hospital.