Court rejects plea to halt reactor at Ehime’s Ikata nuclear plant

Kyodo

A district court on Friday rejected a plea to halt Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s planned restart of a reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan.

Residents in Oita Prefecture, which faces the plant in Ehime Prefecture across the sea, had sought a provisional injunction from the Oita District Court banning the restart of the No. 3 reactor.

The decision was in line with a high court ruling on Tuesday, which accepted an appeal by the power company and gave the green light for the restart of the No. 3 unit.

It was an about-face from a provisional injunction issued in December by a separate judge from the Hiroshima High Court, which required the utility to suspend the reactor until the end of September.

The temporary suspension order drew attention as it was the first case in which a Japanese high court banned operations at a nuclear plant since the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 complex.

Shikoku Electric is planning to restart the No. 3 reactor on Oct. 27.

The focal point of deliberations on whether to restart the reactor, which has been idle for maintenance since October last year, was the power plant’s resistance to volcanic eruptions.

In handing down the ruling at the district court on Friday, presiding Judge Shigenori Sato said, “It cannot be said that a catastrophic eruption of Mount. Aso while the reactor is in operation is imminent.”

A group of citizens in Oita Prefecture, located around 50 kilometers from the plant, had argued that the power company underestimates the risk of pyroclastic flows if a big eruption occurs at the caldera of Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, which is about 130 kilometers away.

Shikoku Electric had claimed there is a “low possibility” of the volcano experiencing a large-scale eruption while the reactor is in operation.

The ruling by the Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday said that worries over a volcanic eruption damaging the plant are “groundless.”

Similar legal action seeking suspension of the No. 3 reactor have been made at other courts in neighboring Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures.

The Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court is scheduled to hand down a decision by the end of next March.