Japanese court allows 2 nuclear reactors to restart

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 29, 2017

An appeals court's go-ahead Tuesday to resume operations at two nuclear reactors in central Japan brightens not only the earnings outlook of Kansai Electric Power, but also the prospects of finally getting more reactors in the country back online.

Kansai Electric Power Co. won a major victory in its bid to restart the Takahama nuclear plant on March 28, with the Osaka High Court overturning a lower court's unprecedented injunction to shut down the plant in operation.

Concerns about the safety of nuclear facilities were raised after a 9.0-magnitude offshore quake triggered a huge tsunami wave in 2011 that hit Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing a meltdown.

But in March past year, a district court ruled Kansai Electric hadn't sufficiently explained how it would prevent or deal with accidents. The court's presiding judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto ruled on 9 March that the safety of the units can not be guaranteed - despite Japan's nuclear regulator saying they meet revised safety standards - and issued an injunction against their operation.

The restart schedule for the reactors, however, is still uncertain because the utility has been conducting safety checks requested by local authorities after a large crane toppled onto another reactor building at the site due to strong winds in January, a Kansai Electric spokesman said earlier.

The decision came after the Osaka-based utility had appealed the Otsu District Court's March 2016 ruling, in which it was ordered to suspend operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture.

"Our company, while regarding safety as our priority, will seek to gain the understanding of Fukui prefecture as well as residents of host communities as we move toward restarting" the reactors, it said in a statement.

Kansai Electric, heavily reliant on nuclear energy, expects an earnings boost of 7 billion yen ($62.9 million) a month from restarting the reactors in Fukui Prefecture, near Shiga. When they were informed of the ruling shortly after 3 p.m. with attorneys holding up banners that said, "Unjust ruling" and "The court fails to fulfill residents' wishes", the plaintiffs let out a sigh of disappointment.

"Judicial negligence that ignores wishes of residents", read another.

"The threat of court intervention remains a serious obstacle to the Abe administration's goal of full nuclear restarts", Daniel Aldrich, director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program, Northeastern University in Boston, said by e-mail before the ruling.

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