9 Mars 2016
March 9, 2016
A Japanese court has issued an injunction to suspend operations of 2 nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan. It's the first such injunction for reactors currently in operation.
Twenty-nine residents of neighboring Shiga Prefecture sought an injunction in January last year demanding that the plant's operator, Kansai Electric Power Company, keep the No.3 and No.4 reactors offline. They claim the reactors are unsafe and at risk of major accidents.
The Takahama plant's No.3 reactor was restarted in January this year under new government regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The No.4 reactor was put back online last month, but 3 days later it shut down automatically for reasons still under investigation.
On Wednesday, the Otsu District Court ruled in the residents' favor.
Kansai Electric Power will have to stop the No.3 reactor as soon as possible because the injunction takes effect immediately.
The company says it plans to lodge an objection to have the decision canceled.
OTSU, Japan (Kyodo) -- A Japanese district court on Wednesday ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. not to operate its two reactivated nuclear reactors, delivering a blow to the government's push for nuclear power under new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
In issuing the injunction on the Takahama plant, the first of its kind affecting reactors that resumed operations under the post-Fukushima rules, the Otsu District Court cited "problematic points" in planned emergency responses for major accidents and "questions" remaining on tsunami countermeasures and evacuation planning.
The Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture is one of two nuclear power stations that are currently online. The injunction will force the operator to shut down the No. 3 unit, which was restarted late January, and keep offline the No. 4 unit whose operation was recently suspended due to equipment trouble.
Kansai Electric said it will "swiftly start procedures to file an objection to the court's decision" after confirming the detailed content of the court decision and will "make all-out efforts to have it revoked at an early date."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the government will continue to seek the resumption of reactors that have cleared what it calls the "world's toughest (safety) standards."
On whether the court judgment could affect the country's overall nuclear policy, the top government spokesman only said, "I have not heard the details. Anyway, I believe Kansai Electric will first appropriately deal with the issue."
The injunction had been sought by residents of neighboring Shiga Prefecture, a tiny part of which falls within a 30-kilometer radius of the Takahama plant. The plaintiffs living within 70 km of the complex argued that safety measures are insufficient and that many residents could be exposed to radiation if a severe accident occurs.
While the central government has expanded evacuation preparation areas to a 30-km radius of a nuclear power plant from the previous 10 km, safety concerns remain in Shiga Prefecture because in the March 2011 disaster some people living beyond the 30-km zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant also had to evacuate.
Under the revamped safety regulations, which took effect in 2013, utilities are for the first time obliged to put in place specific countermeasures against severe accidents like reactor core meltdowns and huge tsunami -- the direct cause of the Fukushima disaster that began on March 11, 2011.
But Presiding Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said there are problems even in the latest safety measures, such as in the designing of the quake-resistance standards. And he also criticized Kansai Electric for its failure to offer sufficient explanations regarding the safety of the Takahama plant.
Kansai Electric reactivated the Takahama Nos. 3 and 4 reactors on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26, respectively. But the process was plagued with problems, with the No. 4 unit shutting down automatically just three days after it was rebooted.
In a separate case concerning the two reactors, the Fukui District Court issued in April last year an injunction banning Kansai Electric from restarting the units, citing safety concerns.
But the same court lifted the injunction in December, allowing the utility to resume operations at both reactors. Plaintiffs appealed the court decision to the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, where the case is pending.