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[UPDATE] 3-Japan nuclear plant gets safety clearance, Abe hopes for restarts via Reuters

* Sendai nuclear facility may restart Sept-Nov

* Second nuclear plant safety review nears end

* Abe hopes for nuclear restarts if townships approve

* Protesters say safety concerns remain (Adds Abe quote, 2nd nuclear plant review almost complete, protesters)

[...]

CRITICS SAY SAFETY CONCERNS REMAIN

Activists and protesters crowded the regulatory commission’s open meeting on Wednesday, yelling at commissioners to vote against the safety review and to halt restarts.

In approving the Sendai plant, 980 km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo near the southern tip of Japan’s main islands, the NRA is “ignoring unresolved safety issues and rising public opposition,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

The plant has “no effective evacuation plan for the populations in the region, in particular for the elderly, children and those in hospital, no functioning emergency-response centre protected against radiation,” the group said, adding that there have not been sufficient assessments of the risks from a nearby volcano.

But the green light for Sendai does not mean a quick return for the nuclear industry. At most about two-thirds of Japan’s 48 reactors will ever pass the regulator’s stringent safety checks and clear the other hurdles needed to restart, a Reuters analysis showed in April.

The NRA will seek public comment on the decision for a month before issuing its final decision. Kagoshima prefecture, home to the Sendai plant, will hold townhall meetings in municipalities closest to the facility to explain the restart.

Abe’s government has said it will defer to local communities to give final approval on reopening nuclear facilities.

The pro-nuclear governor of Kagoshima and the mayor of Satsumasendai, the plant’s host city, are likely to approve the decision, but many nearby townships oppose a hasty restart.

More than half the 30,000 residents in Ichikikushikino, a coastal town 5 km from Sendai, recently submitted a petition opposing a restart of the plant, citing an unrealistic and inefficient evacuation plan.

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