Japan appeals court overturns ruling barring reactor use

TOKYO • A Japan appeals court yesterday overturned a lower court ruling that barred the operation of two nuclear reactors, a win for the nation's atomic operators and government amid public opposition to the technology following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

At issue were the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, some 350km west of Tokyo.

A lower court in a city adjacent to Fukui ordered Kansai Electric Power in March last year to suspend their operation, spurring the utility firm to appeal to the Osaka High Court. Outside the courthouse, plaintiffs said judges failed to consider the wishes of those living near the reactors.

"We are going to win some and we are going to lose some, but the political and social situation is such that unstable prospects for restarts are here to stay," Ms Aileen Mioko Smith, an adviser to the plaintiffs and a co-plaintiff in other lawsuits, told Reuters. There are more than 30 cases going through Japan's courts in which communities are seeking to stop reactors from operating, she said.

Yesterday's ruling is at least the third time a high court has ruled in favour of utilities seeking to restart reactors. The Kansai case was one of many going through the courts after the Japanese public turned away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.

Just three out of Japan's 42 operable reactors are running and the pace of restarts has been protracted despite strong support from the government, which is keen to restore a power source that provided about a third of electricity supply before the disaster.

Residents have lodged injunctions against nuclear plants across Japan and lower courts have been increasingly siding with them on safety concerns. Contentious verdicts are usually overturned by higher courts, where judges tend to be more attuned to government policy, judicial experts say.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Japan appeals court overturns ruling barring reactor use'. Print Edition | Subscribe