Post-Fukushima Japan may let some nuclear plants reopen

Japan`s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) today gave the go-ahead for the restart of a nuclear power station, the first step in reopening nuclear power after a shutdown following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

While some dozen old plants will definitely remain closed, the Kyushu Electric Power`s two-reactor Sendai plant in south-western Japan could restart, although that still needs the approval of local authorities.

The NRA gave its final safety clearance at a meeting on Wednesday for the Sendai plant after granting the two-reactor power station preliminary approval in July.

Japan is nearing the end of its first full year without nuclear power since 1966 and public mistrust of the sector remains high after the Fukushima tsunami disaster, the worst since the then USSR's Chernobyl in 1986.

The government is pressing regulators to make the decision on whether to decommission the older of the country`s 48 nuclear plants, which face higher safety hurdles than the rest.

Under post-Fukushima rules, reactors are supposed to be decommissioned after 40 years. They can get a 20-year extension, but subject to more rigorous and costly safety regulations.

As many as two-thirds of Japan`s 48 idled nuclear units may never return to operation because of the high costs, local opposition or seismic risks, while one-third will probably come back online eventually, a Reuters analysis showed this year.