Japan edges back towards nuclear power with vote to restart reactors via The Guardian

Legislators in Satsumasendai agree to restart Sendai plant, first move in country since Fukushima earthquake disaster of 2011

Japan has moved closer to a return to nuclear power, more than three years after the Fukushima disaster, after a town in the country’s south-west voted to approve two reactors coming back online.

Nineteen of 26 assembly members in Satsumasendai, located 600 miles south-west of Tokyo, voted in favour of restarting the Sendai nuclear power plant. Four voted against and three abstained.

The vote does not mean the reactors, the first to win approval to restart since the introduction of stringent new safety requirements, will go back online immediately.

The plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power, must pass operational safety checks, and officials in Kagoshima prefecture, where the town is located, also have to give their consent. That means the plant’s two reactors are unlikely to be restarted until next year, officials said.


Greenpeace said Tuesday’s vote “starkly contradicts” the views of most people near the Sendai plant. “There are many significant unanswered or ignored safety questions – these must be addressed publicly and to the satisfaction of the people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by a potential restart of the Sendai reactors,” said Greenpeace Japan nuclear campaigner Ai Kashiwagi.


The debate over the Sendai has split communities. The “host” town of Satsumasendai receives billions of yen in government and industry subsidies. But Ichikikushikino, which lies slightly further away from the plant, receives only a fraction of that, even though residents say they would face similar health risks from radiation leaks in the event of an accident.

Earlier this year, more than half of the 30,000 residents of Ichikikushikino signed a petition opposing the restart. The issue has been complicated by concerns over a volcano located 40 miles away that scientists say is showing signs of increased activity that could cause a small eruption.

Mount Ioyama has recently been shaken by small tremors and showed signs other signs of rising volcanic activity, including a tremor lasting seven minutes, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

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