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Fukui Governor OKs restart (3)

December 22, 2015

Despite injunction, Fukui governor gives green light to restart nuclear reactors



FUKUI--The Fukui governor on Dec. 22 approved the restarts of two reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, despite a court injunction that forbids such operations because of the dangers posed by earthquakes.

Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, has filed an objection to the injunction issued in April by the Fukui District Court. The district court is expected to announce a decision on the matter on Dec. 24.

The injunction was sought by residents living in an area 50 to 100 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

Asked why he did not wait to announce his approval until after the court’s decision, Governor Issei Nishikawa said at a Dec. 22 news conference: “There is no particular reason. The timing should not be the issue.”

Fukui became the third prefectural government to give the nod to restarting reactors, following Kagoshima and Ehime prefectures, under new nuclear safety regulations that took effect in 2013 after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Of Japan’s 43 active reactors, only two at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture are currently operating.

Although the court injunction remains in place, Nishikawa’s approval to restart the Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 reactors represents another step forward in Kansai Electric’s long desire to bring its nuclear reactors back online.

If the utility's objection is granted, Kansai Electric plans to restart the No. 3 reactor in late January and the No. 4 reactor in late February.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority in February said the Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 reactors have met the more stringent safety standards.

The municipal assembly of Takahama, which hosts the nuclear complex, endorsed the proposed reactor restarts in March, followed by Takahama Mayor Yutaka Nose’s approval on Dec. 3, and the prefectural assembly’s green light on Dec. 17.

Nishikawa’s decision came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged at a Dec. 18 meeting of the central government’s nuclear disaster prevention council to hold briefings across the nation to gain the public’s support for resuming nuclear plant operations.

Concerns about the nuclear safety persist among the public, given the continuing battle over the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and the fact that Japan is one of the most quake-prone nations in the world.

Abe also promised that the central government will responsibly come up with comprehensive measures to address nuclear-related issues in Fukui Prefecture, such as extending the operating licenses of reactors beyond the 40-year limit, decommissioning aged reactors, and deciding the fate of the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, the problem-plagued centerpiece of Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling project.

Nishikawa has said that promoting public understanding of the safety of nuclear complexes was the most important precondition toward a restart. With the prime minister’s pledge, Nishikawa apparently decided that all of his requirements toward a restart had been met.

But no plans have been set to secure the safety of residents within a 30-km radius of the Takahama plant in the event of a serious accident. About 180,000 people live in this 30-km zone, which also covers parts of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures.

In light of the Fukushima triple meltdown, local governments hosting nuclear facilities have been required to come up with evacuation plans to prepare for a disaster.

But localities in the Takahama zone have yet to secure vehicles, build roads for a possible exodus or compile measures to ease traffic congestion and eliminate other hurdles for a workable nuclear evacuation plan.

The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, each with a capacity of 870 megawatts, began commercial operations in 1985. The Takahama plant is one of three nuclear complexes operated by Kansai Electric in Fukui Prefecture.

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