Tohoku Electric Power Co on Tuesday applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for safety checks on the No. 1 reactor at its Higashidori nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture.
The NRA is currently processing applications for safety checks on 19 reactors around Japan.
However, the application for a restart of the 1.1-million-kilowatt reactor at the Higashidori plant is likely to be a drawn-out process since the utility disagrees with a team of NRA scientists who said last year that faults underneath the plant are most likely active.
The NRA has said that nuclear plants sitting atop active faults will not be given the green light to be restarted.
The four-member panel commissioned by the NRA says that at least two major faults underneath the Higashidori plant are believed to be active, while Tohoku Electric maintains they are inactive.
The panel said the faults could cause magnitude 7-class earthquakes near the reactor, which was opened in 2005 and is among the newest of Japan's aging reactors.
Unless the operator can present evidence that reverses the current analysis, Tohoku Electric would have to re-evaluate the seismic impact and reinforce the facility before it could reopen, a process that could take years.
Checks have been also made for seismic faults at several other plants following criticism that past investigations of faults by utilities were faulty. Although the government, desperate to stabilize Japan's energy supply and cost, has said reactors that have passed strict safety checks can resume operations, fresh investigations into faults could further delay the process.© Japan Today/AP