OTSU, SHIGA PREF. – The Otsu District Court on Thursday rejected a demand by Shiga residents to halt the restart of nuclear reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama and Oi plants.
The decision clashes with a ruling made by another district court in May that disallowed the restart of two reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture. Kansai Electric is appealing that ruling.
In Thursday’s ruling, residents of Shiga argued that the many geological faults in the vicinity could cause stronger earthquakes and tsunami than currently anticipated.
Both nuclear plants have four reactors each. Two at each plant are being screened by the Nuclear Regulation Authority based on tougher safety requirements imposed following the triple core meltdown in Fukushima in March 2011.
The Takahama site’s two units are in the final phase of the assessment process. They could be back in operation as early as next spring.
In Thursday’s decision, presiding Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said it is unlikely the NRA will be overly hasty in allowing the reactors to resume operation, dismissing the residents’ claim that resumption is looming and a severe accident could occur.
Kansai Electric said that the ruling was “reasonable” and that it will seek to restart the reactors “as soon as possible” after they are confirmed safe by the NRA.
Since the Fukushima disaster, judicial rulings on nuclear power plants have been divided. When the Fukui District Court ordered Kansai Electric to suspend the restart of the Oi reactors in May, the ruling affirmed their importance to society but pointed out they are “merely a tool for generating electricity and thus inferior to people’s fundamental rights.”
A similar case lodged in Osaka to halt the two Oi units was rejected by the district court in April 2013. A high court upheld the decision in May this year, saying it is not appropriate for a court to decide on the matter before the government does.
Before the Fukushima disaster, a few court judgments had sided against nuclear power plants, but all were later overturned by higher courts, including a Kanazawa District Court decision in 2006 that ordered the closure of a reactor run by Hokuriku Electric Power Co.