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Editorial: District court hands down absurd ruling on Takahama nuclear plant

  • 2016-03-10 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: March 10, 2016 – p. 2)


 Another outrageous judicial ruling has been made regarding a nuclear plant. We fear such rulings will cause Japan’s energy and environment policy to collapse.


 The Otsu District Court admitted a temporary injunction filed by residents in Shiga Prefecture to shut down the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant (in Fukui Prefecture) operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. (KEPCO)


 The two reactors were just restarted this year after clearing inspections by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) based on new regulatory standards established after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


 However, this injunction means that the court squarely rejects the new regulatory standards and the NRA’s inspections.


 As the injunction takes effect immediately, KEPCO must shut down the reactors. Halting nuclear reactor operations on account of a judicial ruling is unprecedented.


 KEPCO, which views the ruling as “totally unacceptable” will swiftly file an appeal with a high court. The injunction needs to be lifted as soon as possible.


 The impact of the ruling is immense. KEPCO will now have to review its overall supply plan before liberalization of the electric power market takes effect in April. It will be difficult for the company to reduce its electricity charges as planned. Consequently, the injunction is bound to have a negative impact on business operations and people’s livelihoods in the Kinki Region.


 The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that the safety compliance of nuclear plants should be determined according to the administration’s reasonable judgment based on scientific and technical knowledge.


 However, the latest ruling by the district court called on KEPCO to explain whether or not the measures to ensure safety based on the government’s new regulatory standards are reasonable. In response, the court decided that KEPCO’s “assertions and explanations are insufficient.” Specifically, the court pointed out that quake-resistance capacity, tsunami prevention measures, and evacuation plans are questionable.


 Is this ruling reasonable? We should not turn a blind eye to the possibility of increased risks to society such as a power shortage or a hike in electricity rates as a result of shutting down the Takahama plant.


 There are precedents for such incomprehensible rulings. The Fukui District Court ruled that the No. 3 and 4 reactors of the Takahama plant be suspended in 2015, but cancelled the order eight months later. In 2014, the Otsu District Court rejected an application for a temporary injunction to suspend the operation of Takahama plant, including the No. 3 and 4 reactors.


 Since the scientific system of nuclear power generation is made up of a combination of highly specialized technologies, it is extremely problematic for the judiciary to hand down rulings as if it understands everything.


 We fear that endless litigation will undermine the nation’s energy policy and measures to fight global warming based on the basic energy plan. We hope the government will present a clear stance on its nuclear energy policy.

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