Watchdog's safety clearance for Tepco reactors irks Fukushima victims

The Japanese utility blamed for safety lapses in the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns has received its first approvals to operate reactors under stricter safety standards set since the 2011 disaster

However, the authorization from the NRA concerning the two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units marks the first time the regulator has OK'd restarts for Tepco since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster and the first time reactors of the same type that suffered meltdowns has been approved. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday that two reactors in northern Japan met new, stricter safety standards after "sufficient measures" were taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

It is the first approval from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) since the Fukushima incident in 2011, which led to a meltdown of reactors following an quake and tsunami. 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, a first step toward restarting them. "Approving the safety of reactors at the world's largest nuclear plant when it is at extreme risk from major earthquakes completely exposes the weakness of Japan's nuclear regulator". Anti-nuclear activists rallied outside the regulation authority's building Wednesday. Then the reactors' startup could take months.

Tepco said in a statement that it took the regulatory authority's decision seriously and would continue making safety improvements at its plants while it attempted to decommission Fukushima Daiichi and compensate evacuees.

"It appears that things are moving forward as if the (Fukushima nuclear) crisis is over", said Hiroko Matsumoto, 68, who lives in a temporary shelter house in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, away from her home in Tomioka, also in the prefecture, due to the triple meltdown at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

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Ryuichi Yoneyama, the governor of Niigata prefecture, where the plant is located, has said he will not discuss a restart at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa until the prefecture completes a review of the Fukushima disaster, and that could take until 2020 at the earliest. (TEPCO) were cleared Wednesday to restart by Japan's nuclear watchdog.

Greenpeace said 23 seismic faultlines ran through the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site.

Opinion polls show that most Japanese people oppose nuclear restarts.

Triggered by a 9.0-magnitude natural disaster in March 2011, a massive tsunami overwhelmed reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in north-eastern Japan.

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