National / Crime & Legal

Fukuoka High Court rejects residents' appeal to halt nuclear reactors in Saga

Kyodo, JIJI

The Fukuoka High Court upheld on Wednesday a lower court decision to dismiss a demand by local residents to halt nuclear reactors in Saga Prefecture over safety concerns.

Around 70 residents had appealed the Saga District Court’s ruling in March last year that denied an injunction to halt operation of reactors Nos. 3 and 4 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant.

The plaintiffs had argued there was a volcanic risk from Mount Aso in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture, and that methods for projecting the risk were not established. They also said counterterrorism steps at the plant were insufficient while arguing that the evacuation plans devised for residents in times of emergency were not viable.

Kyushu Electric said the risk of pyroclastic flows from the volcano was low.

The district court determined there were no specific dangers posed to the reactors in the event of a volcanic eruption, ruling that the plant’s quake resistance and evacuation plans were adequate. It also said the risk of a massive volcanic eruption on Mt. Aso was small enough to be “disregarded according to common sense.”

“Our claims so far were accepted by the court and we consider the decision appropriate,” Kyushu Electric said in a statement. “We will continue to take voluntary steps to improve the safety and reliability of our nuclear power plants.”

“This is very unpleasant,” said Akira Hasegawa, 80, after the court handed down the decision. Hasegawa represented the group of residents that had filed the request to suspend the operation. “We want to challenge (them), again, in a lawsuit,” he added.

Reactors Nos. 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant were reactivated between March and June last year, but operation of the No. 4 unit was suspended in August for regular inspections.

The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors can each output of 1.18 million kilowatts of electricity.

The aging Nos. 1 and 2 reactors are set to be decommissioned.

Another group of local residents had submitted a similar filing for an injunction to stop operation of the Nos. 3 and 4 units, but their request was rejected by both the Saga District Court and Fukuoka High Court.