TOKYO (AP) — A court Wednesday refused to let two nuclear reactors restart operations in western Japan, saying their risk assessment is too optimistic and safety measures insufficient despite lessons from the Fukushima disaster.
The denial by the district court in Japan's nuclear hub of Fukui is the first since the crisis and comes as some Japanese reactors are in the final stages of safety screening before a restart, and plaintiffs and their anti-nuclear supporters say the court ruling could sway local acceptance.
Anti-nuclear sentiment and the public's distrust to utility operators and authorities have persisted since the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which caused more than 100,000 people to leave homes nearby due to radiation.
All 50 workable reactors have been idle for repairs or safety checks since then, except for the two Ohi reactors, No. 3 and No. 4, which temporarily resumed operation in 2012-2013 as an exception decided by the government to curb a summertime power crunch. Eighteen of the 50 reactors have applied for safety checks to qualify for a restart.
Nearly 200 people who live near the Ohi plant sued its operator in November 2012, and the court ordered it not to restart the two reactors. Kansai Electric Power Co. said it will appeal Wednesday's ruling. Technically, it can operate the reactors if they pass the safety standard while the case is pending.
Judge Hideaki Higuchi said the quake estimates for the reactors are too optimistic and the emergency safety measures and backups to secure the key cooling systems remain insufficient. The triple meltdowns at Fukushima were caused by the failures of the reactors' cooling systems after external power and backup generators were destroyed by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.
Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told a news conference he hoped the "sensible" court ruling would boost a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan. About 30 lawsuits against nuclear plants and utilities are pending nationwide, NHK public television reported.
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