Japanese court turns down appeal to suspend n-reactors

Tokyo, April 6 (IANS) A Japanese high court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal from local plaintiffs filed last year and opted aggainst granting an injunction to suspend the operation of two nuclear reactors restarted at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant.

Fukuoka High Court adjudicated on the case to shut down the reactors in Japan’s southwest after a district court initially turned down the local residents’ petition in April 2015, Xinhua reported.

The residents were seeking the shutdown of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors due to fears that the utility was unprepared to deal with a sizable earthquake hitting near the plant and had underestimated the size of a possible temblor potentially damaging the facility, and had made insufficient evacuation plans were such a catastrophe to occur.

The residents’ subsequent appeal, rejected on Wednesday, was also based on increasing volcanic activity that could also threaten the Sendai nuclear facility and necessitate enhanced evacuation measures.

The court, however, had maintained that new safety standards implemented by Japan’s nuclear watchdog were found to be sufficient, the media reported.

It also said that the plant, having passed the new guidelines set in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, was deemed operationally safe.

During the time in which the case was passed to the Fukuoka High Court, the plant’s No. 1 reactor was brought back online last August and the No. 2 reactor in October last year.

The Japanese government was looking to bring all of the nation’s 48 reactors idled for safety checks and in the wake of the Fukushima multiple meltdowns back online, and aims to be producing 20 percent of the country’s electricity from nuclear power by 2030, despite mounting public opposition.

Such opposition saw the Otsu district court last month order Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt the operation of two restarted reactors at its Takahama nuclear plant, in Fukui prefecture on Honshu island on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

The restart had initially been a boon for the government, marking the second complex since the 2011 Fukushima disaster to be brought back online, and the first of the fast-breeder type of reactors that run on uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel to become operational.

But while Kansai Electric Power Co. is contesting the ruling, the No.3 and No.4 Takahama reactors must legally remain shuttered until such time that the injunction is overturned.

Concerns from local residents, antinuclear campaigners and renown international scientists, are that an earthquake as large as the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki quake that struck Japan on March 2011, causing a devastating tsunami that knocked out the key cooling functions at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima, leading to the worst commercial nuclear disaster in history, could occur again.

A consortium of international scientists after drilling for miles beneath the Pacific Ocean and into the active earthquake fault after the March 11 mega-quake, have found that the epicentre of the 2011 quake was just 130 km east of Sendai, with activity in the subduction zone suggesting another strong quake, or sizable volcanic incident, could be highly likely.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. officials, however, to the contrary of the scientific findings, have stated that they believe a mega-quake or eruption will not happen during the lifespan of its nuclear facility.

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