Japan nuke reactor reaches criticality

A reactor at the Oi nuclear power plant in western Japan reached criticality on Monday after it became the first one to be rebooted last night in the aftermath of last year's meltdowns at Fukushima.

After being idled for over 15 months for mandatory checks since March last year, the No. 3 reactor at the Kansai Electric Power Co. plant in Fukui Prefecture is now slated to gradually increase output and restart power transmission as early as Wednesday. It is due to go into full operation possibly by next Sunday, Kyodo news agency reported.

The utility serving western Japan continued work to resume operation of the 1.18 million kilowatt reactor to head off power crunch despite a noisy demonstration outside the plant.

It pulled out the reactor's 53 control rods that had contained fission reactions, while gradually reducing the concentration of boron that has the same function in the primary cooling water.

Criticality was reached at 6 am on Monday.

Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Seishu Makino witnessed the work as part of the government's efforts to enhance monitoring of the plant's resumption amid public concern over nuclear safety in the wake of Fukushima accident.

Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa said in a statement that the plant's safe operations as the first facility to resume operations after checkups since the Fukushima crisis will be 'the key to regaining confidence in nuclear power that was lost after the accident in Fukushima.'
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