Japanese high court supports restart of Takahama units

28 March 2017

Japan’s Osaka High Court has lifted an injunction against restarting units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Takahama 3&4 have been shut down since March 2016, a week after Takahama 3 resumed commercial operation, becoming the third reactor in Japan to return to service since new regulatory standards were introduced following the Fukushima accident.

In March 2016, the regional Otsu District Court issued an injunction to halt operations at Takahama 3&4 in response to a request by anti-nuclear groups who said there were doubts about the station’s seismic standards. In July 2016, Kansai Electric filed an appeal to the Osaka High Court arguing that its seismic data was based on results of precise geological investigations. Kansai said important facilities had sufficient seismic safety margins, and municipal evacuation plans were “effective and reasonable” and based on experiences from the Fukushima accident. Takahama 3&4 are 830MWe pressurised water reactors which began commercial operation in 1985.

Kansai Electric, the utility most dependent on nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster, has said that when the units are in operation they boost the its profits by JPY7bn ($63m) a month. Before the units can resume operation, planned maintenance must be completed. The restart will take more than one month, according to the utility, NHK reported. The decision is the first time a higher court has overturned a ruling to favour nuclear restart. Two previous higher court victories were both upholding lower court decisions that allowed reactors to operate.

The ruling is seen as a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policy.

Japan shut down all of its reactors after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, relying on imported fossil fuels to power its economy. Due to public opposition, only a handful have since been restarted. However, Abe has repeatedly said that Japan  needs nuclear power and has supported restarting reactors despite public concern. Currently three of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are online.

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