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TOKYO - Kansai Electric Power Co. on Wednesday resumed operations of its No. 3 reactor at its Oi nuclear plant on the Sea of Japan coast, despite ongoing local opposition.
The No. 3 reactor now comprises three reactors that the utility has brought back online in the same vicinity.
The newly rebooted No. 3 reactor is located just 14 km from the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the utility"s Takahama plant, also in the the central Japan prefecture of Fukui.
The restarting of the reactor marks the first time since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster seven years ago that multiple reactors have been restarted in the same area.
Local residents have voiced their concerns that in the case of a similar type of disaster, evacuation plans for the Oi and Takahama nuclear plants remain insufficient.
The No. 3 reactor at the Oi plant marks the sixth reactor to be brought back online after passing the stricter safety regulations imposed by Japan"s nuclear watchdog after the Fukushima crisis.
By fiscal 2030, the government here has said that it wants between 20 and 22 percent of its total electricity to be generated by nuclear power.
In February, Japan"s nuclear regulator approved a draft assessment by Kansai Electric Power Co. to bring its No. 3 and 4 reactors back online at its Oi plant.
Under current plants, the No. 3 reactor will begin commercial operations in April and the No. 4 reactor is scheduled to be restarted in May.
The restarting of the reactors came following unanimous approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) as the two reactors have or soon will meet the government"s new safety guidelines.
The NRA said that since July 2013 when Kansai Electric first sought to bring its two reactors at the plant back on line, the utility has increased its expectations for seismic events affecting its reactors in the future.
In response to the NRA"s request for improvements in this area, the regulator also said that the utility"s plans to introduce special equipment that could help prevent the kind of hydrogen explosions that occurred at the Daiichi facility in Fukushima, were suitable.
The utility has yet to win public approval for the restart, however, and has already had a lawsuit filed against it over safety concerns and local consternation remains rife, according to local media reports.
Its Takahama plant saw two reactors brought back online last year, however, after gaining the NRA"s approval to be restarted, only to be swiftly served with a judicial order to take them offline over public safety concerns.
The order was overturned by a Japanese high court.