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Takahama: Surprise!

March 9, 2016

 

Court issues surprise injunction to halt Takahama nuclear reactors

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/09/national/court-issues-surprise-injunction-halt-takahama-nuclear-reactors/#.Vt_h-ebbySo

 

Kyodo

OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – A court has issued a surprise injunction to halt operations at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture, siding with residents from neighboring Shiga Prefecture worried about the safety of the plant.

The order, by the Otsu District Court in Shiga, is likely to lead to an immediate halt of the No. 3 reactor, which was restarted in late January.

The judgment — the first of its kind affecting reactors that were fired up under beefed-up safety regulations following the March 2011 triple-meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant — is a blow to the government’s renewed push for atomic power. The ruling could also cast doubt on the stringency of the new safety regulations.

Kansai Electric had also been working to restart Takahama’s No. 4 reactor this month after an unplanned shutdown due to a technical problem last week.

The Takahama reactors, on the coast of Fukui Prefecture in western Japan, had cleared the new regulations last year.

The Takahama plant is one of two nuclear power stations that are currently online.

The injunction by the Otsu District Court forces the operator to shut down the No. 3 unit, which was restarted in late January, while also keeping the No. 4 reactor offline.

Residents of neighboring Shiga Prefecture, a portion of which is within a 30-km radius of the Takahama plant, had asked for the injunction citing insufficient safety measures and concerns that many residents could be exposed to radiation in the event of a severe accident.

While the central government has expanded evacuation preparation areas to a 30-km radius of a nuclear plant from a previous 10 km, safety concerns have persisted in Shiga. Those in favor of the injunction had cited the March 2011 disaster, where some people living outside the 30-km zone around the Fukushima plant were also forced to evacuate.

The Takahama complex was the nation’s second nuclear power plant to be brought back online after clearing the new regulations, with its Nos. 3 and 4 reactors resuming operations on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26, respectively.

But the No. 4 reactor was hit by trouble shortly before and after its reactivation. Ahead of its reboot, radioactive coolant water leak was discovered. Then — just three days after it was rebooted — the unit shut down automatically for a reason yet to be conclusively specified.

In a separate case concerning the two reactors, the Fukui District Court issued an injunction last April banning Kansai Electric from restarting the units, citing safety concerns.

But the same court later 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.

Under the revamped safety regulations, which took effect in 2013, utilities are for the first time obliged to put in place specific countermeasures in the event of severe accidents like reactor core meltdowns and huge tsunami — the direct cause of the Fukushima crisis that began on March 11, 2011.

 

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