Photo/IllutrationThe No. 3 reactor of the Shimane nuclear power plant stands in the foreground. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Chugoku Electric Power Co. will initiate procedures to gain approval to start operations of a nuclear reactor whose construction was halted in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The utility began construction of the No. 3 reactor at its Shimane nuclear power plant in 2005, and work was close to completion when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, unleashing tsunami that devastated coastal areas of the northern Tohoku region.

Chugoku Electric Power initially planned to begin operations of the No. 3 reactor in March 2012, but the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant prompted the government to review its safety standards.

The review process brought construction work to a halt at the No. 3 reactor of the Shimane plant.

Before Chugoku Electric Power can apply to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a safety screening, it must gain the consent of Shimane prefectural authorities and the Matsue municipal government.

Sources close to the utility said the company would seek approval from the two entities as soon as preparations are completed.

A key reason behind the step is action taken by the NRA for the No. 2 reactor located on the same complex as the No. 3 reactor now under construction.

Chugoku Electric Power has applied for a safety screening to resume operations at the No. 2 reactor, and on Feb. 16 the NRA signed off on the utility's basic earthquake ground motion as the likely maximum quake that could strike the No. 2 reactor.

"Now that we have approval for the basic earthquake ground motion for the No. 2 reactor, we will work toward also applying for a safety screening for the No. 3 reactor," said a utility official.

If Chugoku Electric Power does submit an application for the No. 3 reactor it would be the second case of a safety screening application for a reactor under construction.

In December 2014, Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) submitted an application to the NRA for a safety screening for its Oma nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture.

The No. 3 reactor being constructed by Chugoku Electric Power is an improved version of the boiling-water type reactor similar to those at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Even if the NRA approves the safety screening, operations will not begin immediately as additional work is needed to improve the safety of the reactor.