A Japanese court on Thursday cleared the way for Kansai Electric Power to restart four nuclear reactors, rejecting legal claims against Japan’s second-biggest utility to keep the reactors idled over safety concern.
His comments came two days before the Fukui District Court rules on an objection by the utility to an injunction issued by the court in April which blocked the restart.
But the reactors past year passed the nuclear authority’s safety review, which became more stringent following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The No. 3 unit is thus likely to become the third reactor to be brought back online under the new safety standards, after the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The local residents plan to appeal against the latest ruling at the Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court.
Another reactor is expected to restart on Shikoku Island early next year but the return to atomic energy has been slower than the government and industry wanted.
The company said it will seek the earliest possible restart of the plants, while “making efforts to autonomously and independently improve safety at our nuclear power stations”.
Lawyers Hiroyuki Kawai and Yuichi Kaido, co-leaders of a legal team representing the plaintiffs, criticized the ruling as “a done deal taking into account a resumption schedule” for the Takahama reactors and said they would appeal. Asked why he didn’t simply wait for the court’s decision, the governor said, “There is no particular reason”.
Much of the Japanese public remains concerned about safety since the Fukushima disaster, given that Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Kansai Electric shares rose briefly after the ruling but soon headed lower.
The vast majority of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain closed – according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the country’s nuclear generating capacity is running at less than 5% of its full potential.
As the prefectural government of Fukui and the town of Takahama, which hosts the nuclear plant, have already approved the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, Kansai Electric will now work to put them back online.
“Restarting its nuclear fleet is critical to restoring the health of Kansai’s balance sheet”, Mr O’Sullivan said.