A court in Japan issued a ruling blocking plans to restart two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture after many Japanese raised safety concerns. The decision of the court could slow the progress of the country’s return to nuclear-generated electricity.
Japan has 48 usable reactors, but none are currently producing electricity since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which was primarily due to a major earthquake in March 2011. The Fukui Prefecture is home to 13 commercial nuclear reactors. The region is called Genpatzu Ginza or Nuclear Alley, and it is a political stronghold for the atomic power industry.
Court says new regulations cannot guarantee safety
In his ruling, Judge Hideaki Higuchi emphasized that the new safety regulations cannot ensure the prevention of another nuclear disaster. Last December, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved the restart of the nuclear reactors no. 3 and no. 4 at Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama plant. The agency said both reactors comply with new safety regulations.
Judge Higuchi pointed out, “The new regulations are not reasonable. Therefore, there is no need to study whether the Takahama plant satisfies them.” The judge cited several factors including a newspaper article where one of the developers acknowledged that the methodology used in the new regulations had potential flaws.
Judge Higuchi said the new regulations “are so loose that compliance with these regulations wouldn’t secure the safety of this plant.” This is the second time for Judge Higuchi to rule against the reopening of a nuclear plant in Fukui. He is the only judge in Japan forbidding the restart of nuclear reactors to generate electricity since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Kansai Electric to appeal the court decision
Kansai Electric Power Company said it would appeal the decision of the court. The company planned to resume the service of its nuclear reactors by the end of the year, but experts believe that it would be delayed for months or even years.
Atsushi Suzuki, a power industry expert and associate partner at NTT Data Institute of Management & Consulting, commented that the court ruling is a blow to Kansai Electric.
Japan will not change policy of restarting nuclear reactors
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga emphasized that the court ruling will not change the government’s policy of restarting nuclear reactors that meet the requirements of the new safety regulations. According to him, “These are some of the world’s strictest regulations,” he said.
Suga also questioned the court’s scientific rationale in its decision. The Cabinet Secretary said, “The reactors have been judged by experts to meet the new safety standards. We will respect that judgment, and there is no change to our policy of moving ahead with restarts.”