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Following Fukushima disaster, Japan will restart first nuclear reactor under new safety rules

Following Fukushima disaster, Japan will restart first nuclear reactor under new safety rules

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Japan is getting back into nuclear power. The Kyushu Electric Power Company announced today it will restart a nuclear reactor at its Sendai power plant in southern Japan on Tuesday. It will be the first reactor in the country to go back online under new safety requirements that were created following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The reactor will start generating power on Friday and should reach maximum output in a month.

Yet many in Japan are opposed to the reactor's restart. Dozens of protestors — including Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister during the Fukushima crisis — rallied outside the Sendai plant on Monday, shouting, "we don't need nuclear plants," according to the Associated Press. Those who live near the Sendai plant are also fearful of the plant resuming operations, citing active volcanoes in the area that could trigger another meltdown, reports the AP.

Many in Japan are opposed to the reactor's restart

In 2011 an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a major nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant in northeastern Japan. The incident was considered the worst nuclear power plant disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion; radioactive materials from three reactors were released into the surrounding environment, and more than 100,000 Japanese residents were displaced from their homes.

Prior to the incident, nearly 30 percent of Japan's energy came from nuclear power, but the disaster prompted Japan to shut down all 48 of its nuclear reactors. Two of the country's reactors were brought back online briefly to help aid energy production, with the last operating reactor shut down for maintenance in 2013. The country has been without nuclear power for the past two and a half years.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for the return of the country's nuclear power plants, as Japan has been relying heavily on fossil fuels and imported energy since the incident. The government set a goal of having 20 percent of Japan's energy come from nuclear power by 2030, and all of the country's reactors must follow stricter safety guidelines put forth by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority. Two of the reactors at Sendai, including the one going online tomorrow, were deemed safe under these regulations in September, according to the AP. The second reactor is expected to go back online in October.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of Japanese residents oppose a return to nuclear power, however. Nearly 90 percent say they feel some degree of anxiety that another disaster will occur. The cleanup of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has also been mired by numerous radiation leaks, and costs associated with the disaster could be upward of $58 billion.