The Hiroshima District Court on Friday rejected a call from residents in western Japan to maintain a suspension of operations at a Shikoku Electric Power Co. nuclear reactor, saying the plant is unlikely to be hit by a major volcanic eruption.

A provisional injunction issued in December by the Hiroshima High Court had barred the utility from restarting the No. 3 unit at its Ikata plant until Sept. 30 due to safety concerns. The residents filed in May for the extension.

However, the injunction was nullified on Sept. 25 by the same high court, brushing aside as "groundless" local fears of a volcanic eruption in Kumamoto Prefecture damaging the Ehime Prefecture plant that is located about 130 kilometers away.

In line with the high court decision, the Hiroshima District Court's presiding Judge Takahiko Fujisawa said Friday that the likelihood of a major eruption occurring at Mount Aso in Kumamoto is "very low."

"There is no risk that needs to be removed immediately with the injunction," Fujisawa said, noting that the utility has also taken measures to protect its emergency power generators from volcanic ash.

Shikoku Electric has said it intends to restart the No. 3 reactor on Saturday. The reactor has been idle for maintenance since October last year.

The utility welcomed the district court's decision, saying it "accepted our claim that safety is ensured at the No. 3 unit."

The company fell into the red in the April-June quarter due to a rise in the costs for coal- and oil-fired power generation and reduced output.

With the restart of the Ikata facility, the company expects to return to the black in the full year that ends next March.