TOKYO, Sept 10, 2014 (AFP) - Japan's nuclear watchdog Wednesday gave the green light for two reactors to restart, one year after the energy-poor country shut down its last unit in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis.
The go-ahead from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) in July comes after it issued a more than 400-page safety report, saying two reactors at the Sendai plant in southern Japan were safe to switch back on, and follows a month-long public consultation period.
But any restart is unlikely before the year end as the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, is also required to get two more NRA approvals for other facilities at the site.
More challenging, perhaps, is gaining the consent of communities living near the plant, who must sign off on the restarts before they can happen.
Greenpeace Japan said the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to be glossing over the last year, in which Japan has survived without nuclear power, in its rush to get nuclear reactors back online.
"The government... is ignoring the lessons of Fukushima and attempting to prevent the renewable energy revolution, trying to take the nation back to its dependence on dangerous and unreliable nuclear power," said the organisation's Kazue Suzuki.
"The government should be focusing its efforts on managing the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima, supporting its victims, and abandon its plans to restart nuclear reactors."
Abe has been trying to persuade a wary public that the world's third largest economy must return to an energy source that once supplied more than a quarter of its power.
Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, sparking the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.
Following the catastrophe, the country's nuclear reactors were switched off. Two reactors were briefly restarted last year but all of Japan's nuclear plants are currently offline.