17 Juin 2016
June 17, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – The Otsu District Court on Friday rejected a bid by Kansai Electric Power Co. to lift an injunction against restarting reactors at a nearby plant, dealing yet another setback to attempts by the utility and the central government to return swiftly to nuclear power.
The move means the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, in Fukui Prefecture, will remain idled.
In a statement, Kepco condemned the court’s action.
In his decision, Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said Kepco failed to provide sufficient evidence to back up its claims that the two reactors were safe.
“The very first article of the law that established the Nuclear Regulation Authority says a fundamental point of Japan’s nuclear power administration is clearly establishing the understanding that the maximum effort must be made at all times to prevent an accident involving the use of nuclear power,” said Yamamoto. “But unless the operator shows that there is nothing lacking in regards to safety, it’s presumed some safety points are lacking.”
The decision was welcomed by citizens’ groups fighting the restart of the two reactors, but it was also expected. Yamamoto was the same judge who had granted their initial request back in March that shut down the reactors, also citing a lack of convincing evidence on the part of Kepco that the plants were safe. The reactors were originally restarted at the beginning of the year.
“It was a just decision, very direct. We hope it will provide a spark to other legal efforts in other parts of Japan to stop nuclear power plants from being restarted,” Yoshinori Tsuji said after the ruling. Tsuji was one of the plaintiffs who filed for an injunction in March.
Legal wrangling over the two reactors continues. Kepco has filed a separate legal challenge to the Otsu court’s decision, and said Friday it hoped that when that ruling came, possibly in July or August, it will lead to restarts.
Shiga residents seeking to keep the reactors offline have said Friday’s decision did not mean their court battles were over.
“If the Otsu court rules against Kepco, it could end up in the Osaka High Court, possibly next year,” said Hidenori Sugihara, another one of the plaintiffs who sought the injunction.
The Otsu court case has demonstrated the difficulty of restarting nuclear power plants in a timely manner. Under laws drawn up by the NRA that went into effect in 2012, localities within a 30 kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant are supposed to establish evacuation plans in the event of an emergency.
But the expanded radius has greatly increased the number of local governments and residents who are concerned about a rush by the utilities to restart as many plants as possible.
In the Kansai region, where parts of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures lie within 30 kilometers of Fukui Prefecture’s plants, lawsuits by residents like the one in Otsu have the potential to slow down, if not halt, Kepco’s plans for restarts.
The original injunction was brought by Shiga residents who fear an accident at the plant would have a damaging impact on Lake Biwa, the nation’s largest freshwater lake and the source of water for about 14 million residents in cities such as Kyoto and Osaka.
OTSU, Japan (Kyodo) -- A Japanese court kept its ban on operation of two nuclear reactors at the Takahama power plant in Fukui Prefecture on Friday by rejecting the plant operator's request to suspend an injunction it had issued over the reactivated reactors.
The Otsu District Court's decision concerns the injunction issued in March over the Nos. 3 and 4 units at the Kansai Electric Power Co. plant that marked a major setback for the government's push to ramp up nuclear power generation. Local residents had filed for the injunction on safety concerns.
In Friday's decision, the court said it "cannot conclude that (the reactors) are safe, merely because they have met new regulatory standards on nuclear power plants." New, more stringent safety rules were introduced in 2013 in the wake of the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
"Kansai Electric should at least explain how the regulations on operation and designs of nuclear power plants were toughened and how it responded to them," the decision said.
The decision, issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, as the injunction in March, marks the final word on one process regarding the injunction because Kansai Electric cannot take further action on it.
The two reactors will remain offline as long as the injunction is not invalidated through a separate track examining an objection filed by Kansai Electric when the court issued the injunction. This track is also being presided over by the same judge.
The March 9 injunction was the first of its kind affecting operating reactors. One of the reactors was taken offline one day after the order. The other reactor was already offline.
The court said then there are "problematic points" in planned responses for major accidents and "questions" on tsunami countermeasures and evacuation planning, in light of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The Osaka-based utility subsequently sought to suspend the injunction, saying its safety measures are thoroughly proven and the court's decision was scientifically and technologically groundless. It also said the suspension of the reactors has cost the company 300 million yen ($2.88 million) in losses daily.
The Takahama plant had cleared the post-Fukushima safety regulations in February last year, allowing Kansai Electric to reactivate the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors on Jan. 29 and Feb. 26, respectively. But their operations were beset with problems, with the No. 4 unit shutting down automatically due to a trouble just three days after it was rebooted.
The residents of Shiga Prefecture living within 70 kilometers of the four-reactor plant had filed the injunction as they worried about their safety in the event of a nuclear accident or disaster.
The plaintiffs argued that safety measures are insufficient and feared residents' exposure to radiation in case of a severe accident.
A part of Shiga falls within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant, which is set by the central government as an evacuation preparedness zone.