Court orders closure of 2 Japan nuclear reactors

Kansai Electric's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in western Japan were previously declared safe under post-Fukushima rules.
Kansai Electric's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in western Japan were previously declared safe under post-Fukushima rules.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • A Japanese court ordered the shutdown of two nuclear reactors previously declared safe under post-Fukushima safety rules yesterday, a decision that comes just days before the fifth anniversary of the atomic disaster.

The order will bring the number of operating reactors in Japan down to two. Dozens were shuttered in the wake of Fukushima, the world's worst nuclear accident in a generation.

The ruling by the Otsu District Court - the first to force the shutdown of reactors switched on under stricter safety rules adopted after the 2011 disaster - is a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to bring back nuclear power.

The ruling ordered the shuttering of Kansai Electric's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, some 350km west of Tokyo. Kansai Electric said it would respect the "extremely regrettable" decision and shut down operations. But the utility firm said it would appeal.

TV footage showed plaintiffs and local residents cheering and holding banners after the ruling.

The bid to restart Japan's nuclear reactors has become entangled in a web of lawsuits amid fears about another Fukushima-style accident.

In December, another court sided with Kansai Electric by lifting a temporary injunction blocking the restart of the two reactors covered by Wednesday's ruling.

The latest case was filed by residents in neighbouring Shiga prefecture who argued the reactors posed a risk to Lake Biwa, a key water source for the region. An accident similar to Fukushima would contaminate the lake, they argued.

"This is a landmark victory for people living in the shadow of shut-down reactors across Japan and a devastating blow against the nuclear industry and the policies of the Abe government," said Ms Hisayo Takada, deputy programme director at Greenpeace Japan.

Mr Abe and utility companies have been pushing to get reactors back in operation, as the disaster forced Japan to turn to pricey fossil fuels to plug an energy gap left by the closures.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Court orders closure of 2 Japan nuclear reactors'. Print Edition | Subscribe