Japan's Otsu district court on 9 March issued a temporary injunction against the operation of units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Company's (Kepco's) Takahama NPP in Fukui prefecture. The request for an injunction was filed by anti-nuclear groups concerned about the station's seismic standards and the new regulatory standards brought in following the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Kepco, which will be forced to shut down the two recently restarted units, immediately issued a statement saying it will "promptly take steps to file an objection" and will do its best to prove the safety of the units so the injunction can be lifted "as soon as possible".
Unit 3 was restarted in January and is in commercial operation. Unit 4 was restarted in February, but has been shut down since a scram on 29 February 2016 related to alarms indicating a main transformer or generator internal failure and a potential transformer failure. Kepco has submitted to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) a report on the cause of that problem and the steps it would take to correct it.
Japanese lower courts sometimes hand down contentious verdicts that are then overturned by higher courts, where judges tend to be more attuned to political implications, judicial experts say. Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa says it is extremely regrettable that inconsistent court decisions have been making those in areas hosting NPPs worry about nuclear power. He said the issue of nuclear power should be dealt with by the government, including judiciary authorities and nuclear regulators as a whole, to deepen people's understanding about the issue. He adde that the government, including the NRA, need to squarely face up to the issue.
Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said in a statement he sees the injunction as a decision by the court, which placed emphasis on the safety of the nuclear plant. He added that the government and NPP operators should take seriously the continuing public skepticism about nuclear power and emphasise safety.
Japan's chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said after the verdict that there was no change in Tokyo's stance on safety at the Takahama reactors or in its policy of promoting the restart of reactors that meet new safety standards imposed after Fukushima. Kansai Electric planned late last month to lower power fees it charges to customers from 1 May to pass on fossil fuel cost savings from the restart of Takahama.3 and 4, but this is now in doubt.
Kansai submitted a joint application to NRA in July 2013 for the necessary permissions to restart both units. These approvals include making changes to the reactor installations; its construction plan to strengthen the plant; and its operational safety programmes. NRA gave Kansai approval in February 2015 to make changes to the reactor installations at both units, signifying that it believed the plant was safe for operation. Approval of the company's construction plan for unit 3 was given in August, and for unit 4 in October, together with approval for Kansai's operational safety plans for the Takahama plant.