UPDATE 1-Japan regulator grants safety approval to Tepco's first reactor restart since Fukushima

restart since Fukushima@

* Tepco gets initial safety ok for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke plant

* Restart may be years away due to lack of local govt approval

* Tepco says nuclear restart key to pay for Fukushima disaster (Adds details)

TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) on Wednesday received an initial safety approval from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to restart two reactors at the world's biggest nuclear power plant.

The approval marks the first safety approval Tepco has received in the first steps towards the possible restart of reactors since the 2011 meltdown of three reactors at Tepco's Fukushima plant following an earthquake and tsunami that led to the eventual closure of Japan's nuclear power plants.

Tepco has said it needs to resume operations at the closed plants to pay for Fukushima's restoration and other liabilities from the disaster.

The NRA ruled that the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors, each with a capacity of 1,356 megawatts, at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant has passed new safety standards enacted after the Fukushima accident. The NRA made the approval in a unanimous voice vote among the five commissioners at a meeting on Wednesday.

Even with the NRA safety approvals, the restart of reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa are likely years away.

Ryuichi Yoneyama, the governor of Niigata prefecture, where the plant is located, has said he will not discuss a restart at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa until Tepco completes a review of the Fukushima disaster, which could take until 2020 at the earliest.

The Japanese public is also opposed to restarts and a majority favors an exit from nuclear power, according to opinion polls.

Tepco shares were up by 1.7 percent by 0446 GMT, compared with a 0.2 percent rise in Nikkei index. (Writing by Aaron Sheldrick, Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)