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Japan tightens reactor restart rules

TOKYO — The head of Japan’s new nuclear regulatory agency said Thursday that reactors will not be allowed to restart until they pass seismic inspections and meet new safety standards to be instituted next year.

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said that under the agency’s new safety requirements, emergency procedures for accidents and terrorist attacks will become compulsory for nuclear plant operators.

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The move follows criticism that collusion between plant operators and government officials had left the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant unprepared for last year’s crisis.

Before the accident, operators were allowed to decide for themselves whether to follow safety guidelines recommended by regulators.

Tanaka has been critical of the government’s decision to restart two reactors in the western town of Ohi in July to avoid a power crunch in high-demand summer months, calling the move political.

The reactors are the only ones to go back online since Japan shut down all of its reactors for safety checks following the Fukushima disaster.

Tanaka said that his agency would draft the new requirements by March and that they were expected to become law by July.

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