Japan's nuclear regulator has taken a step further in allowing Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.
The nuclear plant would be the first of those held by the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant to soon be given the regulator's green light under the requirements introduced after the 2011 accident.
The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday unanimously adopted its draft assessment for the plant's No.6 and 7 reactors. The plant has 7 reactors.
The assessment says safety measures for the 2 reactors set forth by TEPCO meet the requirements.
The measures include introducing new equipment and procedures for use in case of severe accidents, such as leaks of radioactive substances from the plant's damaged containment vessel.
The reactors would also be the first of Japan's boiling-water-type reactors -- the same type as those that melted down at Fukushima Daiichi -- to get approval for restarting.
The regulator plans to invite the public to express opinions for a month starting on Thursday before it gives official approval.
Meanwhile, Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has indicated that he will not decide on whether to give necessary consent for the restart before the prefecture's investigation into the 2011 accident is complete. The probe is expected to take 3 or 4 years.
In assessing the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa's restart, the regulator took the unusual step of looking into the eligibility of TEPCO as a nuclear plant operator.
In response, the firm promised to express determination for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi in the safety codes for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The commissioners also noted that a new emergency system to cool heated cooling water by using seawater is effective. They decided to include it in their regulation so that other boiling-water-type reactor operators take a similar measure.
They say the new system is more effective than ventilation that releases gas outside to lower inner pressure of reactors.
Outside the building in Tokyo where the NRA meeting was held, about 30 activists protested the decision. They said TEPCO is not qualified to run nuclear reactors and that the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is not over.