Japan: Court Overturns Injunction Against Operation of Takahama-3 and 4
29 March 2017
On 28 March 2017, the Osaka High Court in western Japan overturned an injunction against operation of the Takahama-3 and -4 reactors, clearing the way for the restart of the two units owned by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO). Both reactors were ordered shutdown in a landmark ruling by the Otsu District Court in Shiga prefecture on 9 March 2016 filed by 29 citizens of the prefecture, which borders Fukui prefecture, where the reactors are located. The two reactors have been subject of two successful injunctions brought by Japanese citizens, both of which have now been overturned on appeal. Reacting to the Osaka judgement, KEPCO stated: “We consider that today’s decision results from the court’s understanding of such explanation of safety of units 3 and 4 of Takahama nuclear power plant was secured.”
The Otsu court had ruled that fulfilling the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) requirements was not sufficient to secure safety at the Takahama reactors, given that the regulations were established while the investigation into the 2011 Fukushima disaster was incomplete. The Shiga court had ruled that thorough survey of geological faults around the Takahama plant had yet to be conducted, and that KEPCO’s claim that its reactors have a sufficient safety cushion to withstand the largest tremors projected was doubtful.
KEPCO countered that the new requirements fully incorporate lessons learned from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant by obliging operators to prepare for a more powerful earthquake, tsunami and other natural phenomenon that could trigger an accident.
The Osaka court presiding judge, Ikuo Yamashita, concluded that “it cannot be said that there was a convincing explanation that the nuclear reactors are unsafe.”
KEPCO submitted an application for NRA review of the reactor in July 2013. Takahama-3 restarted on 1 February 2016, while unit 4 failed to connect to the grid on 29 February 2016 due to a malfunctioning generator. Takahama-3 was shut down on 10 March 2016 following the Shiga court ruling.
KEPCO have not issued a restart date for the reactors following the Osaka ruling. Expectations are that it will be at least one month. Both Takahama reactors resume operations with plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel or MOX supplied by French company AREVA, with 24 assemblies in reactor unit 3 and four assemblies in unit 4. The reactors were de-fuelled in August 2016.
The restart of Takahama-3 and -4, would leave 35 reactors in Japan in Long Term Outage (LTO) since none of these have generated electricity during 2014 or 2015. WNISR considers that all 10 Fukushima units are shut down and will never restart.