9 Mars 2016
March 9, 2016
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A court has issued an unprecedented order for a nuclear reactor in western Japan to stop operating and ordered a second one to stay offline.
The Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture, which issued the injunction, said the emergency response plans and equipment designs at the two reactors have not been sufficiently upgraded despite the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
Wednesday's order requires Kansai Electric Power Co. to shut down the No. 3 reactor immediately and keep the No. 4 offline at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, home to about a dozen reactors.
The two reactors restarted this year after a high court in December reversed an earlier injunction by another court.
The decision reflects Japan's divisive views on nuclear safety and leaves only two of the country's 43 reactors in operation.
By JONATHAN SOBLEMARCH 9, 2016
TOKYO — A court in Japan ordered one of only two nuclear power plants operating in the country to shut down on Wednesday, citing insufficient safety measures put in place after meltdowns at a facility in Fukushima five years ago.
The plant, Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, had been back online for only two months after an extended freeze on atomic power in Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Japan’s government and its power companies have struggled to get the nuclear industry back on its feet. Despite new safety standards introduced in 2013, much of the public remains wary. Only a handful of the more than 40 operable reactors in the country have met the new rules, and lawsuits have made it difficult to restart them.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government sees a revival of nuclear power as critical to supporting economic growth and slowing an exodus of Japanese manufacturing to lower-cost countries. Electricity prices have risen by 20 percent or more since the Fukushima disaster because of increased imports of fossil fuels, though the recent drop in oil prices has taken some of the pressure off.
The court ruling on Wednesday added a new twist to the legal battles over nuclear power.
Judges have enjoined idled plants from being put back into service, but the judgment against Takahama was the first in which a facility that had successfully been restarted was ordered to shut down. Takahama’s owner, Kansai Electric Power Company, brought one reactor at the facility back online in January and another last month.
The court, which is in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, said neither restart should have happened. It was responding to a request for an injunction filed by residents, who said the plant’s owner had underestimated the size of earthquakes that could strike the plant and had not made adequately detailed plans to evacuate people living nearby in case of an accident.
Government safety regulators say Takahama meets Japan’s new safety guidelines, which address such issues. But the court ruled for the plaintiffs, saying there were “points of concern in accident prevention, emergency response plans and the formulation of earthquake models.”
Kansai Electric said it would appeal. It has won previous appeals against injunctions issued against its plants, including Takahama. The company overcame a separate lawsuit to bring the plant online in January.
Takahama is in Fukui Prefecture, a stronghold for the atomic power industry that is home to 13 commercial reactors and that has earned the nickname Genpatsu Ginza, or Nuclear Alley. But the latest lawsuit was filed by residents of the neighboring Shiga Prefecture, who said they would be affected by radiation from a serious accident at Takahama.
Radiation releases from the plant in Fukushima affected a wide swath of northeastern Japan. More than 100,000 residents were evacuated, and many are still unable or unwilling to return.
The restart of Takahama was already plagued by problems. About a week before the second reactor was returned to service in February, a puddle of radioactive water from a leaking pipe was found inside the building housing the unit. A few days after the restart, the reactor abruptly shut down automatically, for reasons that Kansai Electric has not been able to determine.