Photo/IllutrationThe Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (Endo Mari)

Despite an ongoing legal battle over safety, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on Feb. 22 said measures taken at two reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture meet stricter anti-disaster standards.

The NRA will grant official approval if public opinions gathered between Feb. 23 and March 24 do not require major changes to screening documents that acknowledged the safety measures at the plant’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors.

If official approval is given, the two reactors must still obtain the green light or pass tests for two other items before they can be restarted.

In addition, Kansai Electric Power Co., the operator of the Oi nuclear plant, is expected to continue work to strengthen the facility’s anti-quake capabilities until May.

Consent from local governments is also needed for a resumption of the reactors’ operations, meaning they could go back online in the summer at the earliest.

The NRA has now acknowledged safety measures meet the tougher standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster for 12 reactors of six nuclear power plants.

An NRA official said the nuclear watchdog “strictly assumed the tremors of earthquakes” before it made its decision for the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi plant.

The Fukui District Court in May 2014 ordered Kansai Electric to suspend operations of the two reactors in a lawsuit filed by residents. Presiding Judge Hideaki Higuchi cited insufficient safety measures in giving the order.

Kansai Electric has appealed the injunction, and the case is continuing at the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Kunihiko Shimazaki, a former NRA acting chairman who was in charge of the screening of the Oi plant, submitted his opinion to the Kanazawa branch in summer 2016, saying the utility’s calculation method could underestimate the tremors of assumed earthquakes in the area of the nuclear plant.

Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo, is scheduled to testify at the trial in April.

The injunction to suspend the reactors’ operations is not legally binding until it is finalized in court.

That means Kansai Electric could possibly restart the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors if the company obtains all of the necessary approvals and consent.