Photo by Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images.
Japan's nuclear power system, crippled by last year's tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, made a step towards recovery on Sunday: the country restarted its first reactor, two months after Japan went nuclear-free for the first time since 1996.
As the Wall Street Journal explains, the Kansai Electric Power Co. began the process of restarting one of the reactors at the Ohi plant in western Japan. It should begin providing power as early as Wednesday, reaching full power production in a little over a week. The plant plans to restart a second reactor later this month.
Before the 2011 triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, one third of Japan's power supply came from nuclear reactors. But since then, local officials and residents have blocked attempts to get the supply back online, citing safety concerns. Political opposition to nuclear power ultimately paralyzed what remained of Japan's nuclear power system after the tsunami and meltdown, leading to a two-month gap in supply, as the Washington Post explained in May. Tensions increased as the country faced the possibility of a summer power shortage, a likely scenario without nuclear power production.
Hundreds of protesters gathered near the plant over the weekend to demonstrate against the restart. On Friday, tens of thousands descended upon the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo to protest the restart, the AFP reports. Protesters have gathered in smaller numbers at the residence weekly, led in part by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe. His anti-nuclear petition now has over 7.5 million signatures.