Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda approved Saturday the reactivation of two nuclear reactors in western Japan, the first restart since last year’s atomic disaster.

The government told the operator Kansai Electric Power Co to reactivate the idled units 3 and 4 of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture over strong public opposition after the premier met Governor Issei Nishikawa, who gave his consent.

The plant is 60 kilometres north of Kyoto city, the ancient capital and a major tourist destination with a population of 1.38 million.

Japan’s 50 reactors have been shut down for maintenance. Utility companies have been unable to reactivate them because of public fears about nuclear power after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.

The plant suffered meltdowns after it was struck by an earthquake and tsunami. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave areas surrounding the complex.

In early May, Hokkaido Electric Power Co shut down reactor 3 at its Tomari plant on the northern Japanese island, leaving the nation without nuclear-generated electricity for the first time in 42 years.

Nuclear plants accounted for about 30 per cent of the country’s supply before the Fukushima disaster.

This report has been corrected for a factual error

More In: International | News