Restart of 2 Ja­pan re­ac­tors blocked


A Ja­panese court on Tues­day is­sued a land­mark in­junc­tion against the restart­ing of two atomic re­ac­tors, af­ter the coun­try’s nu­clear watch­dog had given the green light to switch them back on.

The dis­trict court in the cen­tral pre­fec­ture of Fukui made the tem­po­rary or­der in re­sponse to a bid by lo­cal res­i­dents to halt the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 re­ac­tors at the Taka­hama nu­clear power plant, a court of­fi­cial said.

The Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tion Author­ity (NRA) last De­cem­ber ap­proved the restart­ing of the re­ac­tors, say­ing they met tougher safety stan­dards in­tro­duced af­ter Ja­pan’s tsunamis­parked nu­clear dis­as­ter at Fukushima in 2011.

But “the safety of the re­ac­tors hasn’t been se­cured,” the court ruled, say­ing the watch­dog’s new stan­dards were “lack­ing ra­tio­nal­ity,” ac­cord­ing to public broad­caster NHK.

The re­ac­tors could be dam­aged by an earth­quake even smaller than that en­vis­aged in the safety stan­dards, the court said.

Plant op­er­a­tor Kan­sai Elec­tric Power slammed the in­junc­tion as “ex­tremely re­gret­table and ut­terly un­ac­cept­able” and said it would ap­peal against the de­ci­sion.

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiffs called the rul­ing a “per­fect victory.”

“This is the best de­ci­sion that we could have ex­pected,” he told sup­port­ers out­side the court­house.

Two other re­ac­tors at Taka­hama also re­main off­line.

Green­peace hailed the court de­ci­sion, say­ing it “could have a na­tion­wide rip­ple ef­fect on sim­i­lar pending in­junc­tion cases — threat­en­ing to de­rail the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment’s nu­clear re­ac­tor plans.”

A sep­a­rate court rul­ing on the restart of two other re­ac­tors in south­ern Ja­pan is ex­pected later this month.

‘Warn­ing from the court’

Hiroshi Miyano, a nu­clear ex­pert and vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Ho­sei Uni­ver­sity in Tokyo, said the court de­ci­sion would af­fect the tim­ing of fu­ture re­ac­tor restarts.

“This can be seen as a warn­ing from the court, which told the (plant) op­er­a­tor that it has to bet­ter ex­plain its re­sump­tion plans,” Miyano said.

“But it does not mean the pos­si­bil­ity of their re­sump­tion has dis­ap­peared,” he added, say­ing the util­ity may still be able to con­vince the court that the re­ac­tors could with­stand a quake.

The gov­ern­ment’s top spokesman Yoshi­hide Suga said Tokyo “re­spects” the watch­dog’s ear­lier ap­proval to turn on the re­ac­tors, but did not com­ment di­rectly on the court rul­ing.

“There is no change in our pol­icy to go ahead with re­sum­ing (nu­clear) op­er­a­tions,” Suga added.

Pro- atomic Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has backed an in­dus­try push to re­turn to nu­clear — which once sup­plied more than one quar­ter of Ja­pan’s elec­tric­ity — as a plung­ing yen sent the coun­try’s en­ergy im­port bill soar­ing.

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