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Nuclear reactor in central Japan restarted, joins 3 units nearby

In this picture taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter, the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors (from top to bottom) at the Oi Nuclear Power Station are seen in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, on March 14, 2018. (Mainichi)

TSURUGA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted Wednesday the No. 4 reactor at the Oi nuclear plant in central Japan, joining three other nearby units already online and raising safety concerns as well as expectations for lower electricity prices.

    On the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture, the operator rebooted the reactor for the first time since September 2013, having brought the plant's No. 3 unit back online in March.

    Two reactors at the utility's Takahama complex, located 14 kilometers from the Oi plant, were rebooted last year.

    Kansai Electric aims to begin commercial operation of the No. 4 reactor in early June and lower electricity bills as the unit's restart would cut power generation costs.

    As many nuclear reactors in Japan have remained offline after the government set stricter safety standards following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, utilities have had to rely on costly fossil fuel imports for nonnuclear thermal power generation.

    Safety concerns remain high among local residents as there is no evacuation plan for them in the event that accidents happen simultaneously at the Oi and Takahama complexes.

    The central government has said it will carry out a drill in the summer based on the scenario of a simultaneous disaster at both nuclear plants.

    In May 2014, the Fukui District Court accepted a claim by antinuclear residents and ordered the utility not to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear plant.

    But both units have been brought back online as the court order has not been finalized, with the case currently being heard at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court.

    The operator initially planned to reboot the Oi No. 3 reactor in January and the No. 4 unit in March, but the schedule was delayed to confirm whether any parts were affected by Kobe Steel Ltd.'s product data manipulation scandal.

    Meanwhile, Kansai Electric decided last year to scrap the No. 1 and 2 units at the Oi plant, which would have been in operation for 40 years in 2019.

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