The government appealed on Friday a ruling by the Nagoya High Court nullifying its approval for construction of the trouble-plagued Monju experimental nuclear reactor, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

“We carried out our safety checks carefully and properly,” METI chief Takeo Hiranuma said, “so we cannot accept the ruling.”

Construction of the reactor was originally approved in 1983.

Plaintiffs in the case — mainly residents living near the reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture — are confident the Supreme Court will uphold the ruling.

“The (government’s) move was expected,” said Miwako Ogiso, secretary general of the plaintiffs’ group, based in Fukui. “It is disappointing, though, that the government appealed the ruling simply to save face at a time when the lack of benefits from fast-breeder reactors is becoming increasingly evident.”

On Monday, the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch overturned a 2000 Fukui District Court ruling and supported the plaintiffs’ claim that deficiencies in preconstruction safety checks were to blame for a massive sodium coolant leak in 1995 that sparked a fire at the reactor.

The decision was the first by a Japanese court in favor of plaintiffs seeking to halt the construction and operation of a nuclear reactor and is a huge blow to the government’s nuclear-fuel recycling policy.

METI officials said the court should have run tests to discern the possibility of all control equipment malfunctioning in a steam generator accident, as well as calculating the likelihood of a core-disruptive accident — both of which the ministry believes are unrealistic.

“It’s lamentable that the ruling gave the general public an impression that a core-disruptive accident could occur at the Monju reactor,” a METI official said.

The government will continue administrative procedures at the reactor as scheduled, including plans to resume operations there, the METI officials said.

In December, METI approved a plan by the governmental Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute to renovate Monju with a view to reactivating it. It is currently examining detailed plans for new designs.

Monju was expected to play a key role in the national policy of using extracted plutonium at fast-breeder reactors.

The 280,000-kw reactor began generating power in August 1995. But it has been shut down since the sodium leak.

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