Police officers and security personnel stand guard at an entrance of Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai nuclear power station, during a protest demanding for the stop of the plant's restart, in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan August 9, 2015. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
TOKYO (Reuters) - A local Japanese governor on Friday asked Kyushu Electric Power to temporarily suspend the Sendai nuclear plant, one of two operating in the nation, further clouding efforts by the government and utilities to restart more idled reactors.
Anti-nuclear advocate Satoshi Mitazono, who was elected governor of Kagoshima prefecture last month, called on Kyushu Electric to re-examine safety and safety measures at its facility in southwestern Japan, raising concerns about a series of strong quakes that struck neighbouring Kumamoto in April.
The request was expected as Mitazono, a former journalist, had said he wanted the temporary shutdown amid heightened concerns from local residents about safety and evacuation plans.
Mitazono's pledges to suspend operations at the Sendai plant are credited with helping him beat in a July election incumbent Yuichiro Ito, who had agreed to the resumption of Sendai's reactors.
"As an operator of nuclear power plants, the company has a duty to sincerely listen and response to the concerns of local residents. The company should temporarily suspend the nuclear plant and re-examine safety," Mitazono said in a statement that was handed to Kyushu Electric President Michiaki Uriu at the prefectural government offices.
Mitazono has no legal power to shut down operating reactors.
"We will give the matter serious consideration," Kyushu Electric said in a subsequent statement.
Only three reactors are online in Japan: two at Kyushu Electric's Sendai plant and one at Shikoku Electric Power's Ikata station. Utilities have struggled to get nuclear units running again in the face of a sceptical public after shutting them all down following the Fukushima disaster of 2011.
Sendai's reactors are already schedule to be stopped for maintenance this year, one in October and one in December. Reactors in Japan are required to be shut for servicing after 13 months of commercial operation.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue)