SAGA – A district court on Tuesday dismissed a request from about 230 local residents for an injunction to stop the restart of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture over safety concerns.
The Saga District Court handed down the ruling concerning reactors 3 and 4 at the complex as the utility prepares for their restart this summer or later, having secured the necessary consent of the governor of Saga and the mayor of Genkai. The town hosts the four-reactor power station.
Reactors 3 and 4 have cleared Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings that were based on safety standards revamped after the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In Tuesday’s decision, presiding Judge Takeshi Tachikawa said the new safety standards are “reasonable.” The court has found no issues with earthquake resistance or steps taken against serious accidents and does not see any specific danger of radiation exposure at the plant, he added.
The focus of the lawsuit, filed by the residents in July 2011, was whether the operator has adequate measures in place against earthquakes. The plaintiffs argued that serious accidents could occur due to degradation in piping.
“The court is supposed to help the weak, but the ruling is based on economics and politics,” said Hatsumi Ishimaru, 65, who leads the group of residents. “We will continue to fight until we stop the nuclear plant.”
The plaintiffs said they will immediately appeal the decision to the Fukuoka High Court.
Kyushu Electric said in a statement it considers the latest decision “appropriate” and will continue to try to ensure safety at the plant.
The ruling may inject momentum into the government’s policy to restart nuclear plants that have fulfilled the new safety standards.
While declining to comment on the court decision itself, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government respects the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s judgment that the reactors meet the new safety standards.
Tuesday’s ruling followed a series of court decisions rejecting similar suits seeking to halt the operations of nuclear power plants.
In March, the Osaka High Court overturned a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, while in the same month the Hiroshima District Court dismissed a request by local residents to order the halt of a nuclear reactor that was restarted last year at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture.
Of the more than 40 commercial reactors nationwide, five are currently in operation. At the Genkai plant, the No. 1 unit is set to be decommissioned due to aging.