Japan restarted a nuclear reactor despite a court challenge by local residents, in a boost for Tokyo's faltering post-Fukushima push to bring back atomic power.
TOKYO - Japan restarted a nuclear reactor on Friday despite a court challenge by local residents, in a boost for Tokyo&39;s faltering post-Fukushima push to bring back atomic power.
Operator Shikoku Electric Power said it switched on the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime prefecture, about 700 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
The reactor -- shuttered along with dozens of others across Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima accident -- was expected to be fully operational by August 22.
The prefecture&39;s governor and the mayor of the plant&39;s host town agreed on the restart in October, in the face of opposition from some local residents who filed a lawsuit to halt the refiring.
Japan&39;s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and utility companies have been pushing to get reactors back in operation after a huge earthquake and tsunami caused a disastrous meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.
The accident forced all of Japan&39;s dozens of reactors offline in the face of public worries over the safety of nuclear power and fears about radiation exposure, forcing a move to pricey fossil fuels.
Opposition to nuclear power has seen communities across the country file lawsuits to prevent restarts, marking a serious challenge for Abe&39;s pro-nuclear stance.
In April, a court ruled that Japan&39;s only two working nuclear reactors could remain online, rejecting an appeal by residents who said tougher post-Fukushima safety rules were still inadequate.
Two other reactors in central Japan had also been restarted before a court in March ordered them offline in response to a legal challenge.
Including the reactor restarting on Friday, Japan will have just three operating reactors -- and furious local residents vowed to fight on.
"We protest this restart of the Ikata nuclear reactor and are extremely angry," the residents&39; group said in a statement Friday, adding that the reactor&39;s use of a plutonium-uranium MOX fuel made it especially dangerous.
"We can&39;t have another Fukushima."
The utility said it would make "ceaseless efforts" to ensure the plant was safe and to keep residents informed about key details of the restart.