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Japan regulator OKs restart of two more nuke reactors

TOKYO, Feb 12 (KUNA) -- Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on Thursday gave formal approval for two idled reactors at a nuclear plant located on the Sea of Japan coast to restart.
In the meeting, the NRA unanimously approved the safety report required to restart Kansai Electric Power Co's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama plant, saying the safety measures adopted by the utility has satisfied the new and stricter safety standards for nuclear facilities introduced after the 2011 Fukushima radiation crisis.
The Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, about 400 kilometers west of Tokyo, became the second nuclear facility to have obtained safety clearance under the new regulations, following approval for the Sendai plant in the southwest in September.
But before the final go-ahead, Kansai Electric still needs to also obtain the consent from local authorities and undergo on-site operational checks to restart the reactors. The reactors are expected to resume operation in summer at the earliest.
All of the country's workable 48 commercial reactors remain idled for maintenance or safety checks, with the last going offline in September 2013. The new safety guidelines, adopted in July 2013, were based on lessons from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster. Under the new rules, nuclear power plant operators are for the first time obliged to take concrete steps to prepare for radiation leaks in case of severe accidents, such as huge tsunami and reactor core meltdowns.
The power companies are also required to install an emergency control center to guard against acts of terrorism and natural disasters. Since July 2013, 11 operators have applied for NRA's safety screenings for a total of 21 idled reactors at 14 plants.
Before the March 2011 atomic accident, nuclear plants in Japan, which is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, produced 30 percent of its electricity. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012, has been pushing for restart of reactors to help Japan achieve economic growth.
The Fukushima plant, located 230 kilometers north of Tokyo, was crippled in March 2011 by the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that caused explosions, meltdowns and massive leaks of radioactive material as the world's worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. (end) mk.hb