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Oi reactors can remain online: court

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

In a key decision likely to affect efforts to restart the nation’s nuclear power plants, the Osaka District Court ruled Tuesday that two reactors in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, are operating under rational safety standards and that it is not clear there is a concrete danger posed by their location near active faults.

The decision allows the Oi plant’s reactors 3 and 4, the only two of Japan’s 50 commercial nuclear reactors currently online, to continue operating until they are due to be shut down for safety inspections in September.

Some 260 antinuclear activists in Fukui Prefecture and the Kansai region had sought an injunction to shut them down, arguing they don’t meet government standards for the time it takes for control rods to be inserted in an emergency shutdown in the event of a major earthquake.

Because of this, they said, the government should order Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt their operation.

The utility meanwhile argued that it had taken additional safety measures since the meltdown disaster started at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including steps to lessen the impact of a major earthquake at the Oi plant.

The court, however, ruled that “the Oi No. 3 and No. 4 reactors satisfy recognized safety standards, and we cannot say that there is a concrete danger.”

The plaintiffs had argued that government standards require a reactor to be shut down 2.2 seconds after an earthquake, but the Oi reactors would take longer and thus are in violation of their operating license.

The court did not agree, saying the 2.2-second margin is not a set law but a safety judgment, and even if the amount of time was longer, it’s not certain there is a concrete danger.

“The verdict today was a travesty. The government says if there’s an active fault under a reactor, you shouldn’t operate it,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, one of the plaintiffs seeking the injunction.

She and the plaintiffs’ lawyers termed the decision as a gift to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and those in the government and utilities seeking to restart Japan’s remaining 48 reactors.