HAKODATE, HOKKAIDO – A court has dismissed a request from residents of Hakodate, Hokkaido, for an injunction to halt the construction of Electric Power Development Co.’s nuclear power plant in the town of Oma, across the Tsugaru Strait in nearby Aomori Prefecture.
Handing down the ruling Monday at the Hakodate District Court, the presiding judge, Chikako Asaoka, said it is “difficult to assess the particular risk of a severe accident right now” because it is uncertain when the Oma plant will enter operation.
The ruling also noted that the plant being built by Electric Power Development, also known as J-Power, is undergoing Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings under new standards set after the March 2011 triple core meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
“It’s not reasonable for a court of law to conduct safety examinations without waiting for the NRA screenings,” the judge said.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling, which was the first on a nuclear plant under construction since the Fukushima disaster.
“It’s a terrible ruling that makes light of us,” said Toshiko Takeda, 69, the leader of the plaintiff group. “How did the court reflect on the Fukushima accident? It’s really mortifying.”
Construction on the Oma plant started in May 2008. It is about 23 km south of Hakodate, on the other side of the Tsugaru Strait.
In July 2010, a group of citizens including Hakodate residents sued the state and J-Power over the issue. The number of plaintiffs has since risen to 1,164.
The main issue in the lawsuit was the safety of the Oma plant, which will only burn mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel — a blend of uranium and weapons-grade plutonium extracted from spent fuel. The Oma plant will be the world’s first fully MOX-powered plant.
The plaintiffs demanded that the project be canceled, arguing that a MOX plant will pose a higher accident risk. They also claimed that the new regulatory standards are inadequate and that there are geographic faults around the plant site.
J-Power insisted that the use of MOX fuel will not necessarily make it difficult to control the reactors.
The Hakodate court admitted that an injunction against the Oma project could be issued if the regulatory standards contained irrational points. But it concluded that the standards could not be deemed to have such points.
Speaking to reporters in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture, Oma Mayor Mitsuharu Kanazawa welcomed the ruling.
“We’ve awaited this result, as we hope to proceed steadily” with the nuclear plant project, Kanazawa said.
Separately from the citizens’ lawsuit, the Hakodate Municipal Government took similar action at the Tokyo District Court in 2014, unconvinced by the central government’s explanations about the Oma project.
A municipal official working on the Tokyo lawsuit said that an accident at the Oma plant could devastate the local fishing and tourism industries.
Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo issued a statement saying that the ruling by the Hakodate court is very regrettable. “We will check details of the ruling to draw lessons for the city’s case.”