Photo/IllutrationProtesters demand a halt to the restart of the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Dec. 8. (Keisuke Tanaka)

SATSUMA-SENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture--Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a reactor at its nuclear plant here on Dec. 8, drawing protests from anti-nuclear activists and a look of resignation from the man they helped to elect governor.

The procedure to remove control rods to allow nuclear fission in the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai plant started at 9:30 p.m., and the plant is expected to generate electricity for commercial use in early January.

The No. 1 reactor had been shut down for maintenance since Oct. 6.

The reactor is the first to be restarted after undergoing a routine checkup based on tighter safety standards adopted in light of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Groups of protesters, including local residents, rallied against the restart and held placards in front of the Sendai plant Dec. 8.

The resumption of operations was particularly harsh for the anti-nuclear activists because they thought they had elected a leader who would shut down the plant.

But Kagoshima Governor Satoshi Mitazono kept his voice low and avoided giving any direct responses to media questions about the restart.

“The nuclear plant will remain here whether it is restarted or not,” Mitazono said earlier on Dec. 8.

The governor also said the prefectural government will soon organize a third-party committee that will examine the safety of the Sendai plant.

During the governor’s race in July, Mitazono indicated he would take a tough stance against the Sendai plant.

After he took office, he twice asked Kyushu Electric for an “immediate halt” to plant operations.

But Mitazono later toned down his words, repeatedly saying he has no legal authority to have the reactor restarted or not.

The No. 1 reactor was restarted as scheduled.

(This article was written by Shuhei Shibata and Takeshi Nakashima.)