TOKYO, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese electric power supplier on Friday restarted a reactor at its plant in western Japan, becoming the fifth reactivation of reactor under tougher nuclear regulations the country has introduced since the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Shikoku Electric Power Co. announced Friday that it started the No.3 reactor at its Ikata power plant in western Japan's Ehime prefecture at 9 a.m. Friday, which is the only restarted unit in Japan that runs on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide, or MOX fuel.
"We will take steps toward criticality and resumption of power generation with priority on ensuring safety," said Hayato Saeki, president and director of the company in a statement on Friday.
"As the power station uses MOX fuel, the startup of this reactor is very significant from the perspective of the promotion of plutonium-thermal power generation, and consequently, the promotion of the formation of a nuclear fuel cycle," said Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko on Friday in a statement.
"This is an essential step toward the establishment of a well-balanced energy mix and a more stable electric power supply," said the minister.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), an administrative body of the cabinet of Japan established to ensure nuclear safety in the country, has confirmed that the Ikata nuclear power station conforms to the new regulatory requirements, which are among the strictest in the world, said Seko.
He also said the power station has gained the local community's understanding, which has led to the startup of the reactor.
The Japanese government aims to have nuclear power account for 20 to 22 percent of the country's total electricity supply by 2030, compared with more than a quarter before Fukushima nuclear disaster.
However, anti-nuclear sentiment is still high in Japan. Worried about safety, dozens of people rallied at the seaside plant early Friday morning, protesting against the restart of reactor while shouting slogans such as "Stop the nuclear plant."
Friday's restart follows the reactivation of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in southwestern Japan's Kagoshima prefecture and Kansai Electric Power's No.3 and No.4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, about 350km west of Tokyo.