Japanese nuclear operator ordered to halt reactor over safety worries

A Japanese court on Wednesday ordered a nuclear plant operator to suspend a recently restarted reactor that cleared new safety regulations.

The judgement was a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been eager to reactivate offline reactors, and overrode a decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) established following Japan’s worst nuclear disaster in 2011.

The Otsu District Court issued the injunction prohibiting Kansai Electric Power from operating its two units at Takahama Nuclear Power Station on the Sea of Japan coast, 400 kilometres west of Tokyo, due to safety problems, Kyodo News agency reported.

Presiding Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto cited “problematic points” in planned emergency responses for severe accidents and questions over tsunami countermeasures and evacuation plans, the report said.

A group of 29 residents of neighbouring Shiga prefecture sought the injunction, citing insufficient safety measures and concerns that locals could be exposed to radiation in case of a major accident.

The order requires the immediate suspension of Reactor 3, which was brought back online in late January, the report said.

Kansai Electric said in a statement it would comply with the court order and shut down the reactor.

“The decision was totally unacceptable,” the Osaka-based company said. “It was regrettable that the court did not understand our claim.”

The plant's Reactor 4 was restarted in late February but automatically shut down three days later due to troubles with a generator.

Despite the ruling, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the government would continue to seek the resumption of reactors that have cleared the updated regulations.

The NRA approved the restarts of the two reactors at Takahama in February 2015, but the Fukui District Court ordered the operator two months later not to restart the units due to safety issues.

But in December, the same court lifted the injunction against the two reactors.

A total of five reactors have so far cleared the NRA’s updated screening process, based on regulations implemented following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011.

The Fukushima plant suffered a triple meltdown after a tsunami swept through the facilities.

In August, Japan ended nearly two years without nuclear power when Kyushu Electric Power reactivated a reactor at Sendai Nuclear Power Station on the south-western island of Kyushu, and a second at the same plant two months later.

The NRA also gave Shikoku Electric Power permission to restart a reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant on the south-western island of Shikoku.

Last update: Wed, 09/03/2016 - 11:49

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