Japan ends nuclear shutdown four years after Fukushima

Tokyo: Japan on Tuesday ended a two-year nuclear shutdown in the energy-hungry country, sparked by public fears following the 2011 Fukushima crisis, the worst atomic disaster in a generation.


Utility Kyushu Electric Power turned on a reactor at Sendai, about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo, at 10:30 am (0130 GMT).

The 31-year-old reactor — operating under tougher post-Fukushima safety rules — was expected to reach full capacity around 11:00 pm Tuesday and would start generating power by Friday.

Commercial operations are to begin early next month, a company spokesman said.

The restart comes more than four years after a quake-sparked tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, prompting the shutdown of Japan´s stable of reactors and setting off a pitched battle over the future use of atomic power.

The accident sent radiation over a wide area and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes — many of whom will likely never return.

Decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima reactors is expected to take decades with compensation expenses — excluding the cost of the site´s clean up — now topping $57 billion.

Anti-nuclear sentiment still runs high in Japan and television showed protesters scuffling with police in front of the Sendai plant, which is on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

Local media said about 200 protesters gathered at the site, including former prime minister Naoto Kan who has become a high-profile anti-nuclear activist.

The resource-poor nation, which once relied on nuclear power for a quarter of its electricity, restarted two reactors temporarily to feed its needs after Fukushima. But they both went offline by September 2013, making Japan completely nuclear-free for about two years. (AFP)