The operators of 10 nuclear reactors in Japan were to ask regulators for permission to restart, news reports said on Friday, as the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear accident left almost all the country’s nuclear power plants idle.

On Monday, when tougher nuclear guidelines take effect, four utilities were to apply to the newly-formed Nuclear Regulation Authority to have their reactors confirmed safe enough to restart them, the Kyodo News Agency reported.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. wants to resume operations at three reactors at Tomari Nuclear Power Station, while Kansai Electric Power Co. seeks to restart two units at Oi Nuclear Power Plant and another two at Takahama Nuclear Power Station on the Sea of Japan coast.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. aims to resume operation at one reactor at the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime prefecture.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. wants to restart two reactors at Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima prefecture.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, also said it would seek to resume operations of two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in Niigata.

About 160,000 people have been forced to leave their homes near the Fukushima complex, 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo, due to radioactive contamination. The plant suffered meltdowns at three of its six reactors after it was hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

As each of the rest of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors were shut for scheduled maintenance and repair since the disaster, fierce public resistance has opposed their restarting.

Only two have resumed operations a year ago, amid vocal public protests.

Japan has faced spiralling costs from fuel imports for thermal power stations, where output has been increased to compensate for the idled nuclear sector that used to provide 30 per cent of the country’s electricity.

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