A controversial decision to restart two nuclear reactors in western Japan moved closer on Thursday when the mayor of a town near the plant gave his approval, reports said.

Japan's entire stable of 50 working reactors is currently offline after a backlash against nuclear power following the quake-tsunami that sparked meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011.

Government rules say reactors must pass internationally approved stress tests designed to demonstrate they can withstand a natural disaster, and then get assent from their host communities.

The mayor of Oi said he would support the restarting of units 3 and 4 at the Oi nuclear plant, Jiji Press said, following an appeal from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who stressed the importance of restarting the units.

The move now needs to get approval from Issei Nishikawa, the governor of the prefecture of Fukui, which includes Oi, and he was expected to give his consent Friday, local media reports said.

Noda last week said Japan could not do without atomic energy -- it had relied on nuclear power for around 30 percent of its electricity needs before Fukushima -- but stopped short of ordering a restart.

"Nuclear generation is an important power source and energy security is one of the country's most important issues," he said.

[Japanese nuclear reactor. AFP Photo]