Court issues surprise injunction to halt Takahama nuclear reactors

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

In a surprise ruling that is likely to delay efforts to restart nuclear power generation nationwide, the Otsu District Court on Wednesday issued a provisional injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Co. to shut down its No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture.

While Kepco is expected to appeal the ruling, company officials said at a news conference that was hastily called after the decision that they would begin operations to shut down the No. 3 reactor on Thursday morning, and expected to complete the process by the evening.

The No. 3 reactor was restarted in January, and the No. 4, which had been scheduled to restart last month, was delayed due to technical problems.

“There are doubts remaining about both the tsunami response and the evacuation plan,” the ruling said.

The Otsu ruling comes just two days before the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting tsunami and triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

The jubilant plaintiffs expressed surprise and relief following the ruling, which emphasized technical problems regarding the two reactors, including issues concerning an outside power supply source in the event of an emergency. The ruling also raised concerns over the emergency protocol.

“This is a huge victory for the safety of children, people with disabilities, and the society and economy of not only the Fukui-Kansai region of Japan but the entire country,” said Aileen Mioko Smith of Kyoto-based Green Action, an anti-nuclear group. Smith was not a plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit that sought the injunction was filed by Shiga residents who are fearful that an accident at the Takahama plant, which lies less than 30 kilometers from the northern part of Shiga Prefecture, would impact Lake Biwa, the nation’s largest freshwater body and the source of water for about 14 million people in the Kansai region, including Kyoto and Osaka.

The judgment — the first of its kind affecting reactors that were fired up under strengthened safety regulations following the March 2011 disaster — is a blow to the government’s renewed push for atomic power. The ruling could also cast doubt on the stringency of the new safety regulations.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, however, told reporters following the ruling the government would not change its basic stance of promoting restarts.

In a separate case concerning the two reactors, the Fukui District Court issued an injunction last April banning Kansai Electric from restarting the units, citing safety concerns.

But the same court later lifted the injunction in December, allowing the utility to resume operations at both reactors. Plaintiffs appealed the court decision to the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court, where the case is pending.

Under the revamped safety regulations, which took effect in 2013, utilities are for the first time obliged to put in place specific countermeasures in the event of severe accidents such as reactor core meltdowns and huge tsunami — which was the initial cause of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Information from Kyodo added

  • Liars N. Fools

    Glad the Otsu court did this and hope appellate courts will uphold. The irradiation of Biwako is a real possibility. Tsuruga is even closer to Shiga. The Kansai is not a huge region and what happens in Fukui does not necessarily stay in Fukui, and Shiga and Kyoto definitely should assert their interests.

  • solodoctor

    In addition to the concerns about Lake Biwa the evacuation plans for these facilities are inadequate. Per prior JT reports, there are only 2 roads by which 200,000 residents could be evacuated. The fact that the NRA approved the restart on the basis of these dangerous inadequacies suggests it is more invested in KEPCO’s profits than in the public’s safety.

    We shall see which side of the fence the Court finally comes down on!

  • DrHunter

    This is good news. But the genie is out of the bottle, as they say, at Fukushima. Japan is in serious trouble as the March 11th, 5th anniversary of Fuku approaches. I fear for the future of Japan and its people, and the rest of the world being contaminated by the continuous flow of rads from 3 meldown/melt through reactors.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Reasonable Judgement.

    but Brave Judge may be demoted again.
    His Judgement may be overturned again by pressure from
    “the Establishment” of Japan.

  • fromjapan

    Abe Govt of Japan repeat self-praise that “Japan’s nuclear Safety standard is best in the world”.

    but its actual state is far inferior to other countries’ safety standard.

    Stopgap evacuation plans ignore even direction of wind.
    and Nobody inspect practicability of evacuation plans.

    Many members of Japan Nuclear Regulation Committee are already concerned persons of Nuclear industry,Their independency is very doubtful.

    Japan’s Nuclear Plants are not Earthquake-proof design despite “natural disaster country”.

    Authorities of Japan continue to trivialize danger of Radioactive contamination.

    Japan’s self-styled “best safety” do not consider Worst case scenario.

    these are tip of iceberg merely.

    Ashio,Minamata,Yokkaichi,Asbesto,Fukushima,and so,
    Japan economy had disregarded safety and health for profit of large industry historically.

    Japan’s Nuclear policy have learned nothing from Nuclear Disaster.

    • tisho

      a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth

  • palokukuba

    With all respect, but Fukushima nuclear disaster happened due to tsunami, not Earthquake. Nuclear plants contended the Earthquake. What happened in Fukushima is proof that no matter how well you design a nuclear plant, there will always be a risk of a disaster. Instead of sitting down and criticising I would suggest you to put pressure on the governments of your countries to make a deal on G20 summit to shut down nuclear plants, just like the USSR-USA agreement about nuclear weapons long ago. We just have to greatly reduce the amount of electricity we consume and eliminate electricity greedy applications, such as recharging electric cars.