Japanese town approves restart of nuclear plant


– A small town in south-western Japan decided Tuesday to allow the restart of a nuclear reactor despite public opposition following the country’s worst atomic accident in 2011.

The assembly of Ikata town in Ehime prefecture, 750 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, unanimously approved plans to request the restart of reactor 3 at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co.

The operator could restart the reactor as early as next year after necessary checkups, Kyodo News agency reported.

The town’s decision coincided with the central government’s approval of evacuation plans in the event of severe accidents at the plant.

But critics say locals may be left without an overland escape route in the event of such an accident as the plant is located at the base of a narrow peninsula called Sadamisaki on the island of Shikoku.

Local protesters gathered outside the town office to voice opposition to the reactivation, Kyodo said.

Mayor Kazushiko Yamashita said he will decide whether to agree to restart the reactor after meeting with Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa this week, the report said.

Shikoku Electric received safety clearance from the Nuclear Regulation Authority in July.

In August, Kyushu Electric Power Co resumed the operation of a reactor at its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant on the south-western island of Kyushu, becoming the first unit under updated regulations following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011.