TOKYO (Reuters) - Seismologists on Monday agreed there was no active fault line under Japan's sole functioning nuclear station, giving the operator, Kansai Electric Power Co 9503.T>, hope it can restart two reactors once they undergo maintenance and safety checks.
Two reactors at Kansai's Ohi plant in western Japan were restarted last year, the only units back in operation after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and prompted the shutdown of all 50 reactors nation-wide.
But Kansai Electric had been in dispute with experts assigned by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to assess the suspect fault under the plant.
The ruling means the plant is not in breach of rules that forbid critical nuclear equipment being built over active faultlines and Kansai Electric will be able to restart the units subject to safety checks introduced after the 2011 disaster.
Safety worries prompted the network shutdown after three reactor meltdowns in 2011 at Fukushima, about 220 km (140 miles) north of Tokyo, the world's worst civil nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has signaled it will take a tougher stance on plants situated over possible seismic fault lines and prevent risky plants from restarting.
"Our fundamental belief is that unless you can absolutely say that there is no risk, no potential risk of an active fault being beneath of the building the reactor should not be operated," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told reporters.
The impending maintenance on the reactors means Japan will go nuclear-free for only the second time since the 1970s by mid-September, with no schedule for restarts in place.
Kansai Electric will shut Ohi's No.3 unit later on Monday and the No.4 reactor on September 15. Each can produce 1,180 megawatts of power.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Mari Saito; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ron Popeski)