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Japan: Huge Blow To Climate Policy As Court Blocks Nuclear Power

Kana Inagaki, Financial Times

Four years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a group of residents has won a court ruling preventing two nuclear reactors in western Japan from restarting, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to rebuild the country’s atomic industry.

Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. A Japanese court on Tuesday issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two reactors citing safety concerns, in a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to return to atomic energy four years after the Fukushima crisis. The banner (R) reads, "Justice is still alive!!" Mandatory credit. REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

The local district decision in Fukui, announced on Tuesday, could rekindle a divisive debate on nuclear safety. Surveys show a majority of Japanese remained opposed to restarting some of the 48 reactors closed since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima plant in northeastern Japan and led to the largest nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Hideaki Higuchi, the leading judge in the case, said it was “too optimistic” to assume that earthquakes that exceeded the facilities’ quake resistance standards would not occur and criticised the country’s post-Fukushima safety standards.

“The new regulatory standards are too lax and the safety of the reactors in question will not be ensured even if they meet the standards,” Mr Higuchi said, according to a statement of the ruling released on the court’s homepage.

The delay is a blow for the power industry, which before the 2011 accident had relied on nuclear plants to generate nearly 30 per cent of the country’s electricity. The national nuclear shutdown has forced utilities to import vast amounts of additional oil and gas to make up the shortfall.

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