Osaka – A court on Friday nullified the government's approval of safety measures for two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The Osaka District Court ruled in favor of about 130 plaintiffs who claimed that the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of the nuclear plant are vulnerable to a major earthquake.
It is the first time a court has blocked government approval for a power company to operate a nuclear plant under new safety standards introduced following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In the ruling, presiding Judge Hajime Morikagi said the nuclear watchdog's safety screening "has errors and flaws that should not be overlooked," as it did not appropriately look into the scale of a possible quake.
The ruling may have an impact on the operations of other reactors that went back online under the new safety standards.
A team of lawyers for the plaintiffs released a statement welcoming the ruling and the court's "sincere and serious deliberations," demanding also the immediate abolition of all "dangerous" nuclear reactors in the country.
The Osaka-based electricity company, known as Kepco, suggested it is considering appealing the ruling, saying it was "extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable."
"We believe we were unable to earn the court's understanding in regard to our claims," the Nuclear Regulation Authority said in a statement. "We will have discussions with the ministries and agencies concerned and respond accordingly."
The two Oi reactors have been idle since earlier this year due to regular inspections.
The plaintiffs argued the utility had underestimated the size of a potentially powerful earthquake when its reactors were designed, while the government countered that the Nuclear Regulation Authority's approval was appropriate, noting their claim lacked a scientific rationale.
In 2017, the NRA approved the reactors' safety under stricter safety standards set following the meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which were triggered by the March 2011 major earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors started commercial operations in 1991 and 1993, respectively, and became the first to resume operation in 2012 under the then-government's tentative safety rules, while others remained offline in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster.
The utility, meanwhile, has decided to decommission the aging Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the plant on the Sea of Japan coast.
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