Fukui court blocks Oi nuclear reactor restart, in landmark ruling

Operations halted pending verdict of ongoing NRA safety probe

Kyodo

The Fukui District Court on Wednesday ruled that it will not allow the restart of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant, which is currently under safety examination by the country’s top nuclear watchdog.

It is the first time since the Fukushima nuclear crisis erupted in March 2011 that a Japanese court has ordered a power supplier not to bring a nuclear plant online.

In the lawsuit, a group of 189 people from Tokyo, the plant’s host prefecture of Fukui and 20 other prefectures contended that the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi plant had resumed operating in August 2012 even though their safety had not been certified.

The resumption took place after all reactors across the country were shut down amid strong public concern over nuclear safety, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by the quake and tsunami in March 2011.

The two reactors at the four-unit Oi plant on the Sea of Japan coast are now offline after being suspended again in September 2013 for regular checkups.

The reactors located in Fukui Prefecture are under examination by the Nuclear Regulation Authority to determine whether they can resume operations under new safety standards introduced nationwide last July.

None of Japan’s 48 reactors are allowed to resume operating unless they meet the new safety regulations, which for the first time oblige utilities to put in place specific countermeasures against severe accidents such as reactor core meltdowns triggered by huge tsunami — the direct cause of the Fukushima crisis.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reiterated that his government will push for the restart of reactors that have satisfied what it calls the world’s toughest regulations.

There are 14 nuclear reactors in Fukui — the most among the nation’s 47 prefectures.

“I have nothing to say about the legal judgment. We will just continue our examination of the Oi plant,” said Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday in response to the court ruling.

Earlier this month, the Osaka High Court turned down a similar lawsuit filed by a group of residents in the Kinki region seeking to suspend the planned resumption of the two Oi reactors, upholding a lower court decision. The high court said it was inappropriate for a court to block the resumption before the Nuclear Regulation Authority decides whether to give a nod to the reactors.