Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Co. resumed operations of its third nuclear reactor at the Takahama nuclear power plant after clearing safety rules put in place following the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, reported Bloomberg. The fourth reactor unit is in the process of being reopened. Twenty-five reactors in the country have also applied to restart so far, while the remaining 40 operable reactors remain shut. According to recent forecasts, two more reactors will come back online in 2016, bringing the nation’s total to five. Eight more will start in 2017 and a total of 37 reactors will be online by 2020, experts estimate.
The re-opened No. 3 unit at Takahama uses riskier MOX fuel and is the first reactor of its type to resume operations, said Penn Energy. MOX is a plutonium-uranium hybrid fuel that Japan began using in 2009. Experts have warned that the MOX fuel emits more radiation and could interfere with control rods when they are needed to suppress the nuclear chain reaction.
Tokio’s commitment to return to nuclear energy is expected to help reduce country’s fuel import bill and provide cheaper electricity. The government has set a target of providing 22% of the nation’s energy needs from nuclear power by 2030, which would require to restart additional 30 to 33 reactors. The reopening of the third reactor was met with dozens of protesters.