Updated 4/20/2015: Kepco appeals injunction blocking restart of Takahama reactors; Fukui court forbids Takahama nuclear plant restart– The Japan Times

Posted April 20, 2015, The Japan Times, “Kepco appeals injunction blocking restart of Takahama reactors“:

” The operator of a Japanese nuclear plant whose restart was blocked this week by a court injunction said Friday it would appeal the ruling.

Kansai Electric Power has submitted “a motion of complaint to Fukui district court” over Tuesday’s injunction banning the refiring of the Takahama nuclear plant’s No. 3 and 4 reactors, a company spokesman said.

In its ruling, the court said the safety of the reactors at Takahama had not been proved, despite a green light from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, whose guidelines, the court said, were “too loose” and “lacking in rationality.”

“We genuinely regret that the court did not understand our argument,” the spokesman said, adding that the temporary court order “includes significant factual errors.”

Kepco also warned of huge economic damage if the reactors are not restarted.

The utility had been aiming to begin operating the facilities as early as November, but it cannot restart them unless the ban is removed or suspended. … ”

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Posted April 17, 2015, The Japan Times, “Takahama nuclear restart injunction polarizing“:

” A provisional injunction handed down Tuesday by the Fukui District Court against the restarting of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors is a boost to opponents of nuclear power, even as the decision draws criticism from senior politicians, nuclear regulators, Kepco, and pro-nuclear Japanese media.

A panel of three judges led by Hideaki Higuchi handed down a provisional injunction banning the restart of the two Takahama reactors, saying that the earthquake-risk prediction method used by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in approving the reactors’ restart was flawed.

“It is hard to find, for a nuclear power station that must be prepared for a remotely possible accident, the rationale for establishing a basic earthquake ground motion that is based upon the foundation of the image of a mean earthquake,” the ruling said.

“This signifies that basic earthquake ground motion has lost its reliability (as an assessment method) not only based upon the track record but also, logic.”

The text was welcomed widely by the anti-nuclear camp.

“The great thing about the Fukui court’s ruling is that it’s written in relatively easy-to-understand Japanese. The NRA and Kepco are saying they don’t understand the ruling, but the fact that they don’t understand is strange,” said Yuji Kano, a lawyer who supported those seeking the provisional injunction.

The question now is whether the decision will influence efforts to block the restart of reactors elsewhere.

Whether it becomes an important precedent rests on two factors, one political and one legal.

While not legally required, precedent demands that the utilities seek the “understanding” of local governments hosting the reactors before any restart. Fukui’s local governments are pro-nuclear and anxious to have the reactors restart for economic reasons, but some other localities greeted the news about the provisional injunction with more caution.

In Hokkaido, where Hokkaido Electric is seeking the restart the Tomari nuclear plant, Gov. Harumi Takahashi, who was re-elected on April 12 and has indicated she favored a restart, said Wednesday that she was now unsure if the Fukui decision would effect Tomari.

Those involved in seeking the provisional injunction of the Takahama reactors said Friday that they hoped the decision would spur local governments to think more seriously about evaluating the safety of nuclear plants in their midst rather than just waiting for experts in Tokyo to tell them what to do.

“Here in Kansai, the (seven prefecture, four city) Union of Kansai Governments has said that as far as the safety of nuclear reactors is concerned, not only specialists from the central government but also local safety specialists appointed by local governments should be relied upon to evaluate a broad range of issues like local evacuation plans and to talk about problems related to the overall safety issues affecting the restart of reactors,” said Hidenori Takahashi, one of those involved in seeking the court injunction.

But the legal issue starts with how other courts hearing appeals for provisional injunctions might rule. Tadashi Matsuda, also one of the nine plaintiffs, said he worries the Fukui court ruling could be the exception rather than the precedent.

“The Fukui court judge’s ruling was based on the people’s right to human dignity. But the government and probably most Japanese are living lives based on economic values, and making judgments based on economics,” he said.

“Even if we don’t want judges elsewhere to rule on reactor restarts based on economic values, there’s a possibility the results will be influenced by a priority on economics,” Matsuda said. ”

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Posted April 16, 2015, The Japan Times, “Nuclear watchdog hits out at injunction against restart of Takahama reactors“:

” The head of the nation’s nuclear watchdog said Wednesday a landmark court provisional injunction banning the restart of two atomic reactors was based on a judicial “misunderstanding” of basic facts.

“Although I haven’t studied it in detail, many things that are based on misunderstandings are written in the verdict,” Shunichi Tanaka told reporters, when asked about the court injunction that was issued on Tuesday.

“It is internationally recognized that our new regulatory regime is one of the strictest . . . but that was apparently not understood (by the judge),” the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) told reporters.

Tanaka’s damning comments came a day after a district court in Fukui Prefecture granted a temporary stop order in response to a bid by local residents to halt the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant.

That came after the NRA said last December that Takahama’s reactors met tougher safety standards introduced after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011. … ”

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Posted April 15, 2015, The Japan Times, “Fukui court forbids Takahama nuclear plant restart”:

” Plans to bring Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 3 and 4 nuclear reactors back online were dealt a severe setback Tuesday when the Fukui District Court ordered that they not be restarted, citing safety concerns.

It marks the first time in Japan’s nearly half-century of commercial atomic power operations that a court has approved a provisional injunction against firing up reactors.

The decision comes despite the Nuclear Regulation Authority appraising the reactors against technical and safety criteria and clearing them for restart last November.

The provisional injunction, unlike civil suit rulings, took effect immediately and remains valid until it is suspended or a request for a stay of execution is approved. Kepco plans to appeal the order and request a stay of execution.

The injunction is expected to push back Kepco’s schedule — it originally envisaged restarting the reactors this November — but the longer term impact is unclear.

For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, resuming nuclear power is key to domestic revitalization, particularly the success of his “Abenomics” policy mix.

In its ruling, the court challenged Kepco’s assertion that the reactors were safe. Presiding Judge Hideaki Higuchi, who in a regular lawsuit last year ruled that the Oi No. 3 and 4 units not be restarted, said Kepco had not shown evidence its earthquake simulation data, which were used to conduct the safety evaluation, could be relied upon.

“This ruling is a giant step for efforts to abolish nuclear power, and, in practice, stops the restart of the reactors,” said lawyers representing nine people seeking the injunction.

“I was not that surprised, as we had indications that the court would rule in our favor,” said Atsuko Nishimura, one of the nine.

Part of the reason for the lack of complete surprise was that Nishimura and those seeking the injunctions felt that Higuchi, at least, might be on their side. So did Kepco, which undertook legal efforts to remove him. Those attempts failed last week when a high court rejected an appeal to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of a move to unseat them.

In a statement, Kepco expressed regret over the decision but said it remained determined to restart the Takahama reactors.

“We’re preparing to file the necessary papers to get the injunction lifted at the earliest possible date and will make efforts to stress the safety of the reactors,” the utility said.

Pro-nuclear Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who was elected to a fourth term on Sunday, had no comment on the ruling and only addressed the safety issue in a written statement.

“The government is pursuing the restart of those reactors whose safety has been confirmed by the NRA. Fukui will respond to the ruling by sufficiently confirming the central government’s and Kepco’s response, and by making safety the top priority,” Nishikawa said.

Kyoto-based anti-nuclear activist Aileen Mioko Smith said the ruling would likely have a huge political impact on restart plans elsewhere. But she added that she hoped the injunction will also influence nuclear safety policy at the NRA.

“The (injunction) ruling is a preventative measure. Seismologists have warned this area could see another big earthquake. To have an injunction will, hopefully, prevent another nuclear disaster like Fukushima, or worse,” she said. ”

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2 thoughts on “Updated 4/20/2015: Kepco appeals injunction blocking restart of Takahama reactors; Fukui court forbids Takahama nuclear plant restart– The Japan Times

  1. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa … [said:] “Fukui will respond to the ruling by sufficiently confirming the central government’s and Kepco’s response, and by making safety the top priority.”

    Translation: Safety is the top priority EXCEPT for removing judges who believe that safety is the top priority.

  2. Pingback: Residents would need 16 hours to evacuate if Takahama plant struck by disaster: NRA — The Japan Times | Japan Safety : Nuclear Energy Updates

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