(Nikkei: April 15, 2015 – p. 2)
The Fukui District Court has issued an injunction against the reactivation of reactors no. 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Takahama nuclear plant. This nuclear plant passed the national government’s safety inspections in February and KEPCO is working for restarting operations in November. The injunction takes effect immediately and unless it is reversed by higher courts, reactivation will not be possible.
Since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, similar lawsuits on nuclear plants have been filed all over the country. Reactivation should be judged based not only on safety, but also on many other factors, such as whether this will be in the interest of the local residents and the Japanese people. Not only the administration and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), but the judiciary also has a role to play.
However, the Fukui District Court’s decision is questionable on many counts.
First, the court ventured into a highly specialized technical realm and made its own judgment.
This is a conclusion that contradicts the NRA’s assessment completely. The NRA had spent 18 months on safety inspections from the specialist’s standpoint and judged that the reactors meet safety standards.
The presiding judge in the Fukui court had also issued a decision in May 2014 on KEPCO’s Oi nuclear plant claiming “inadequate precaution for all possible accidents.” Is demanding absolute safety for nuclear plants and refusing reactivation unless absolute safety can be guaranteed a realistic way of thinking?
Another problem with the court decision is that it does not seem to pay any attention to the adverse effect of the suspension of nuclear plants on the economy and the people’s life.
Suspension of operation at all nuclear plants in Japan will increase the electricity bill of households and businesses. Japan’s energy security will be threatened because it will have to rely on imports of natural gas and other fossil fuels. Yet, there was no mention of this in the court decision.
KEPCO will file an appeal on this decision. The verdict will now be in the hands of the high court.
What are the courts supposed to judge with regard to the reactivation of nuclear plants? Are they not supposed to make a comprehensive judgment based on safety, stable supply of power, impact on the economy, and such other factors? We hope that the higher courts will make their decision with such an understanding.