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Japan Resumes Nuclear Power Generation After 15 Months

7/2/2012 2:00 AM ET

Amid protest by activists, Japan resumed nuclear power generation on Monday for the first time in 15 months.

The No.3 reactor at the Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture in central Japan reached criticality on Monday morning. Normal power generation will begin on Wednesday and reach full capacity four days later, Japanese media reported.

Senior Vice-Industry Minister Seishu Makino and Hideki Toyomatsu, Vice-President of the Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), were present when workers operated a lever to pull up the control rods of the reactor on Sunday night. KEPCO, which operates the plant, confirmed that the fission chain reaction in the reactor reached criticality on Monday morning.

This is the first Japanese nuclear reactor to resume operation after all reactors were taken offline following last year's Fukushima nuclear accident. The Central and Fukui prefectural governments have stationed officials at the Ohi plant to monitor the reactor around the clock.

Members of groups opposing the first restart of idled reactors in the country began assembling near the Ohi plant's gate from Saturday evening by blocking roads leading to the facility. Some protesters held banners urging KEPCO to desist from the move to reactivate the reactor. Others shouted slogans and beat drums.

Even though the presence of protesters is making it difficult for workers to enter the site, the plant's operations have not been affected, KEPCO said.

After the plant reached criticality, Makino said the restart operation went smooth. The government would take responsibility for supervising the situation on behalf of the people, he said adding that officials had learned from the Fukushima accident and, for the sake of safety, they would work with the plant's operator and discuss even minute operational changes.

by RTT Staff Writer

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