Japanese Courts Split On Fate Of Two Plants

Two court rulings in Japan on Thursday went in different directions concerning the fate of two nuclear power plants. In one ruling, the Hiroshima High Court halted a temporary injunction that had kept Unit 3 of the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant closed down. Separately, the Mito District Court approved of an injunction that will derail operations of Unit 2 at the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant.

Ikata NPPThe Ikata plant in the Ehime prefecture is an 846 MWe pressurized waeter reactor owned by Shikoku Electric Power Company. The Tokai unit is a 1060 MWe boiling water reactor owned by the Japan Atomic Power Company in the Ibaraki prefecture.

Ikata Unit 3 has been emblematic of Japan’s ambivalence towards nuclear power in the wake of the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Generating Station, where three reactors suffered meltdowns after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The plant remained offline after routine inspection shutdown in April 2011. It went back online in the summer of 2016, but the Hiroshima High Court ordered it to close in December 2017. Then, in September the following year, the same court reversed its decision.

Court rulings have also seesawed back and forth in the nearby Yamaguchi prefecture, where the district court refused to grant an injunction sought by three residents who challenged the strength of the regulatory requirements and declared the plant unsafe due to its location 130 KM from a potentially active volcano, Mount Aso.

The district court ruled in the company’s favor, but two weeks later, according to the World Nuclear Association, the Hiroshima High Court reversed the decision in favor of the residents. This week, the same court reversed that ruling, siding with Shikoku Electric, which had filed an appeal.

Regarding the Tokai 2 reactor, the district court ruled that plant safety measures were adequate, but the evacuation plan was too limited, specifying it did not cover a large enough territory.

Tokai 2 shut down automatically during the March 2011 earthquake and the tsunami event that followed shut down one of three back up generators. The reactor escaped significant damage as the remaining generators allowed the plant to safely continue cooling the unit.

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