Fukushima operator seeks reactor restart

Fukushima operator seeks reactor restart
An aerial view shows workers wearing protective suits and masks working atop contaminated water storage tanks at TEPCO.

TOKYO - Fukushima operator TEPCO on Friday asked Japan's nuclear watchdog for permission to restart a separate atomic power station, as it resumed cleaning polluted water at the crippled plant.

Tokyo Electric Power switched on treatment systems at the tsunami-wrecked site, seen as key to winning public support for the eventual dumping into the ocean of thousands of tonnes of now-contaminated water.

The developments came as the head of the UN's nuclear body said his organisation could help Japan's ocean monitoring efforts to ensure they conform to international norms - key if Tokyo is going to overcome worldwide suspicion over the effect on the seas.

"We at Tokyo Electric have learnt the lessons from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and we think sharing the lessons with the world is our obligation," senior TEPCO official Takafumi Anegawa told reporters after documents were submitted to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

TEPCO wants permission to re-fire two of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, and bring some of its nuclear fleet back online to help soften the blow from burgeoning fossil fuel bills.

While other utilities have put in applications for reactor safety assessments by the watchdog, this is TEPCO's first and came the day after local leaders gave their blessing to the move.

The company - not known for being fleet of foot in public relations - had previously waltzed into hot water after announcing it would talk to regulators before consulting politicians in the plant's host prefecture.

The NRA assessment is expected to take at least six months. If the reactors are given the green light, TEPCO will then have to seek permission from politicians locally and nationally.

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