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High Court orders shutdown of Ikata No.3 (Part 2)

High Court orders shutdown of Ikata No.3 (Part 2)

December 13, 2017


For 1st time, a high court rules against nuclear plant operations



By KEI KOBAYASHI/ Staff Writer


HIROSHIMA--A high court for the first time has banned operations at a nuclear power plant.

The Hiroshima High Court issued the injunction in a verdict Dec. 13 that applies to the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co.


In the ruling, the high court concluded there was a chance the Ikata plant could be affected by a pyroclastic flow from Mount Aso if an eruption occurred similar in scale to a massive one 90,000 years ago on the southern island of Kyushu.


A computer simulation by Shikoku Electric of the possible effects from an eruption like the one in ancient times showed there was a possibility of a pyroclastic flow reaching the grounds of the Ikata plant.


The high court concluded that the Ikata plant was located in an inappropriate location and that the Nuclear Regulation Authority's decision that new safety standards had been met was not rational.


The company suspended operations in October to carry out a periodic inspection. If a judicial decision overturning the Dec. 13 high court ruling is not issued, the Ikata reactor will not be able to resume operations--even if the inspection is completed without problems.


For that reason, the latest ruling could affect the government's plans to resume operations at other nuclear plants more than six years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


An official with Shikoku Electric Power labeled the court injunction as "extremely regrettable" and lamented the fact that it did not accept the company's assertion that the plant is safe.


"The verdict is unacceptable," the official said.


The utility plans to initiate procedures immediately to have the injunction suspended.

The injunction request was made by four residents of Hiroshima and Matsuyama cities.


Among the main points of contention before the high court were the rationality of new safety standards approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster; the rationality behind the expected maximum strength of an earthquake for the area; and an evaluation of the effect of volcanic ash on the reactor's operations.


While district courts have issued injunctions on operations at other plants, higher courts have overturned all those verdicts until now.


For example, the Fukui District Court in April 2015 and the Otsu District Court in March 2016 ordered operations stopped at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., but those verdicts were later overturned.



Hiroshima High Court orders suspension of Ikata nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture, revoking district court ruling





HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday revoked a lower court decision and ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture, dealing a blow to the government and utilities that are aiming to bring more reactors back online.


The high court suspension order — the first in a series of similar injunctions — mandates that the plant operator shutter the No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant until the end of September next year.


The ruling blocks the planned resumption in January of the unit, which is currently offline for regular checks after it was restarted in August 2016.


Shikoku Electric said the court’s decision is “unacceptable” and plans to file an appeal.

The court questioned a decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority that potential risks associated with volcanic eruptions would not breach the stricter regulations introduced following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.


“Specific threats to the lives and health of residents are anticipated,” the court said.

The latest decision follows a ruling by Otsu District Court in March 2016 that ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend two reactivated nuclear reactors at its Takahama plant. The district court decision was later overturned by the Osaka High Court.


The Fukushima nuclear crisis led to a nationwide halt of nuclear plants, but the government is looking to produce 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity supply using nuclear power by 2030.


The focal points of Hiroshima High Court’s decision Wednesday included whether estimates by the plant operator, Shikoku Electric Power Co., of the potential size of possible earthquakes, were reasonable, and whether safety screening conducted under stricter regulations set after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was credible.


Risks predicted in the event of a nuclear accident or natural disasters such as a volcanic eruptions were also contested.


The plaintiffs claimed that in calculating the size of a potential earthquake, the utility had underestimated the fact that the reactor lies above the epicenter of an anticipated Nankai Trough mega-quake, and that it is located near a geologic fault.


They added that the post-Fukushima regulations cannot ensure safety, and that major damage could occur at the time of an accident or disaster because the regulations were compiled without thoroughly determining the cause of the 2011 disaster.


But Shikoku Electric maintains that it has ensured safety and that there is no danger.

Hiroyuki Kawai, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs said, “Our plea was understood. We could protect the Seto Inland Sea. It is our victory.”


The plaintiffs had said that if the Ikata plant, which faces the Seto Inland Sea, was to be severely damaged, nuclear substances could spread and contaminate waters in the area.


In March, the Hiroshima District Court found that the new regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority and Shikoku Electric’s estimates of a possible earthquake and tsunami were reasonable.


The district court had turned down the request to halt the reactor, saying, “There is no specific risk that residents will suffer severe damage due to radioactive exposure associated with an accident.”


Following the checks, Shikoku Electric had been expected to bring the reactor back online on Jan. 22 and resume operations on Feb. 20.


The plaintiffs were four residents from Matsuyama in Ehime and Hiroshima, located on the opposite side of the Seto Inland Sea to the nuclear plant. Similar injunctions have been contested at the Takamatsu High Court, Oita District Court and the Iwakuni branch of Yamaguchi District Court.


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