Japan has resumed using nuclear energy four and a half years after a nuclear disaster at the country’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and amid stiff criticism.
On Tuesday, power plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it had restarted the No.1 reactor at its nuclear plant in the city of Satsumasendai in the Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan’s remote southwest.
The move ended a two-year-long shutdown of the country’s nuclear reactors. In March 11, 2011, a nine-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami. The double disaster left more than 18,000 people dead or missing.
It also inflicted heavy damage on the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi NPP in northeastern Japan. The cooling systems of the plant’s reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactive material into the air, soil, and the Pacific Ocean.
The Fukushima disaster, which is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, also led to the evacuation of 160,000 people from areas near the NPP.
A majority of Japanese people reportedly oppose the return to nuclear energy following the 2011 crisis, which displaced more than 100,000 people.
Dependence on imported energy and the maintenance of the country’s idled reactors, however, has proven costly for Japan, which has scarce energy resources at its disposal.
“There are very strong vested interests to reopen nuclear reactors. Accepting them as permanently closed would have financial implications that would be hard to manage,” said Tomas Kaberger, the chairman of the country’s Renewable Energy Foundation.