The Japanese nuclear watchdog's decision Wednesday to allow two reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pass its safety review has drawn fierce criticism from citizens who remain evacuated from their home over six years after the nuclear crisis at the utility's Fukushima complex.
The clearance of government safety standards by the utility's Nos. 6 and 7 reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast is a key step toward having them resume operation.
"It appears that things are moving forward as if the (Fukushima nuclear) crisis is over," said Hiroko Matsumoto, 68, who still lives in a temporary shelter house in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, away from her home in Tomioka, also in the northeastern Japan prefecture, due to triple meltdowns at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.
"I want (Tepco) never to forget that a serious nuclear accident can cause enormous damage," she said.
The safety approval given by the Nuclear Regulation Authority shocked people living in Niigata and surrounding areas who are worried about the reactors' reactivation, but others are hoping to see economic benefits from the restart.
"I am surprised that the regulatory authority abruptly softened its stance toward Tepco. I doubt such a hasty decision can guarantee citizens' safety," said Nobuko Baba, 76, who lives about 23 kilometers east of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
"Whether to resume operation (of the two reactors) should be the decision of Niigata Prefecture citizens. I am counting on Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama who has been wary about it," she said.
In contrast, Yasuo Ishizaka, 53, an executive of an industrial equipment company in Kashiwazaki, was happy to hear the news, saying "I am glad that the safety screening went smoothly and it is a big step forward for the local economy."
Anti-nuclear activists gathered before a building in Tokyo's Minato Ward where the Nuclear Regulation Authority held a meeting and endorsed a draft document that serves as certification that the two reactors have met the new, stricter safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster.
"Tepco should not be qualified" and "No reactor resumption" they chanted, with a representative handing over a protest note to an official of the nuclear watchdog.
With the authority's safety approval, the two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex became the first of Tepco's idled units to pass the safety screening since the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Formal approval of the restart by the nuclear watchdog is expected after receiving public opinions and consulting with the economy, trade and industry minister to confirm that Tepco is fit to be an operator.
© Kyodo News International, Inc., source Newswire