OSAKA – The Fukui District Court on Thursday overturned an injunction against restarting reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant, clearing the way for the units to become the third and fourth to go back on line since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 sparked a moratorium on nuclear power.
With the decision, Kepco said it will move quickly to fuel up the No. 3 reactor for restart by late January. Plans call for the No. 4 reactor to be refueled in late January for restart by late February.
The decision by the presiding judge, Jun Hayashi, nullifies that of his predecessor, Hideaki Higuchi, who in April placed a provisional injunction on the Takahama reactors due to safety concerns. Higuchi was later transferred to the Nagoya Family Court.
“The content of the new safety standards (for restarting reactors) is rational, and there was nothing illogical about the decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority when it said the reactors had met those standards. Strengthened construction against earthquakes (at the reactors) has been carried out and there is no recognition that there is a specific danger to the lives of surrounding residents,” Hayashi said in his decision.
Higuchi originally ruled that there were no grounds for Kepco’s claim that its earthquake estimations for the two reactors was accurate, and that there was a danger of damage to the reactor cores due to a loss of coolant function in the event of an earthquake.
Anti-nuclear activists slammed the decision, saying they would appeal.
“We citizens have not lost. It was the judiciary that was unable to withstand pressure from the government and Kansai Electric (for this decision),” said Harumi Kondaichi, one of the plaintiffs.
“This verdict is a copy-and-paste job of Kansai Electric’s arguments. It is a verdict that one can totally not respect, a judgment of very low-level quality,” said Hiroyuki Kawai, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“The Japanese judiciary is not functioning. A devastating accident could occur at Takahama as a result of an earthquake,” said Aileen Mioko Smith of the Kyoto-based antinuclear organization Green Action. “Plaintiffs showed Kansai Electric did not even follow NRA regulations for assessing this important issue. The utility did not rebut this, yet the court gave victory to the utility.”
Kepco welcomed Hayashi’s decision.
“The original decision for the provisional injunction against the restart of the Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 reactors was irrational. Their safety was secured through detailed testimony based on scientific, specialized knowledge,” the utility said in a statement following the decision.
Both reactors, which are 30 years old, will become the third and fourth to be restarted following stiffer safety protocols that took effect in 2012. Two reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant were restarted earlier this year.
Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa gave his approval to restart the reactors on Tuesday.
Local officials have been eager to get the reactors back online. Between 1974 and 2013, the town of Takahama, with a population of around 11,000, received over ¥35 billion in nuclear-related subsidies.
Prior to 2011, about half the town’s annual budget came from such subsidies, while the roughly annual safety inspections brought thousands of Kepco and government officials to Takahama, providing a key source of revenue for the local service industries.