The number of Japanese nuclear reactors likely to restart in the next few years has halved, hit by legal challenges and worries about meeting tougher safety standards imposed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a Reuters analysis shows.
The country has been inching back to nuclear energy, turning on its first reactor in mid-August after a two-year blackout, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and many in industry looking to cut fuel bills despite widespread public opposition to atomic power.
But the analysis shows that of the other 42 operable reactors remaining in the country, just seven are likely to be turned on in the next few years, down from the 14 predicted in a similar survey last year.
The findings are based on reactor inspection data from industry watchdog the Nuclear Regulation Authority, court rulings and interviews with local authorities, utilities and energy experts. They also show that nine reactors are unlikely to ever restart and that the fate of the remaining 26 looks uncertain.
Legal challenges from local residents have hit all atomic plants, with the country’s most nuclear-reliant utility Kansai Electric Power issued with court rulings preventing the restart of four reactors despite two of them already receiving NRA approval to switch on.
Kansai has appealed the judgments but the court cases may take years to resolve if the rulings are not overturned on the first appeal.
Tougher safety standards and stricter implementation of rules since Fukushima have also been hitting restarts. Japan Atomic Power has been battling a regulatory ruling that one of its reactors sits above an active fault, meaning it must be decommissioned.
Read more at Japan nuclear power outlook bleak despite first reactor restart