Japan’s Tohoku Electric power has delayed restarting the key nuclear plant No. 2 at its Onagawa nuclear station by several months on account of additional safety construction works.  

This comes as a setback to the Japanese Government, which has been doubling down on the usage and revival of nuclear plants, an effort to cut down costly imports and realise energy security.  

The company said on Wednesday that it needs more time to fireproof electric cables at the facility. The company had expected to resume commercial operation of the plant by May. Tohoku said the May deadline will be pushed back further. 

Restarting operations at the Onagawa nuclear plant would be a first in the country’s eastern region since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Tohoku’s plant was among the closest to the epicentre of the earthquake in March 2011, only receiving a regulatory nod to restart in 2020. This is the second time Tohoku has delayed the completion of safety works since gaining approval. The company’s shares suffered a hit following their first delay announcement in September 2023. 

During the 2011 Tsunami, the Onagawa station was swamped, although its cooling systems did not suffer any damage. It saved the reactors from a meltdown, unlike the one that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the south.  

Despite strong national sentiment against nuclear since the Fukushima disaster, severe power crunches in Japan coupled with rising energy prices have pushed the country towards restarting idle reactors.   

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The 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on New Year’s Day 2024 once again raised concerns over the push to restart nuclear capacity.  

Following the quake, Tepco reported water spillage from two nuclear fuel pools of the No. 7 and No. 2 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.  

The company claimed that around 14 litres of water containing radioactive materials spilled from the pools, although it said the radiation levels were normal.   

The Shika nuclear power plant, operated by another company, Hokuriku Electric, and located 65km from the epicentre, also reported spillage from spent nuclear fuel pools and oil leaks.