On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said TEPCO’s two reactors in northern Japan met new and stricter safety standards. The authority unanimously approved the draft certificate for reactors number 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, marking the first step in the process toward restarting them. Portions of the plant’s reactors were damaged in a 2007 earthquake.
Much of the Japanese public is opposed to granting TEPCO permission to once again operate reactors, and rightfully so. TEPCO was blamed for safety lapses in the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster after a major earthquake in March of 2011, and the tsunami that followed damaged the power supply and cooling system of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, resulting in an unprecedented nuclear accident.
The area around the plant will be closed for the foreseeable future, with extremely high levels of radiation still being recorded in 2017. Radiation from the damaged plant has found its way into the ocean and surrounding areas, including groundwater. The long-term effects of the disaster are still unknown.
TEPCO said in a statement that it will continue improving safety standards at its plants while focusing on Fukushima’s decommissioning in addition to compensation for the thousands of evacuees.