High court orders suspension of Ikata 3 operation

13 December 2017

A Japanese high court has today overruled a lower court decision that allowed Shikoku Electric Power Company to continue operating unit 3 of its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture. Ikata 3 is one of five units that have so far restarted since Japan took all its operable reactors offline for safety checks following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Ikata plant - 460 (Shikoku)
The three-unit Ikata plant (Image: Shikoku)

Ikata 3 had been idle since being taken offline for a periodic inspection in April 2011. It was given approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to resume operation in April 2016. Shikoku began the process to restart the 846 MWe pressurised water reactor on 12 August and the unit was declared back in commercial operation on 7 September 2016.

Four residents from Matsuyama and Hiroshima filed a request for a temporary injunction against the unit's operation with the Hiroshima District Court on 11 March last year, the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The plaintiffs claimed that Shikoku had underestimated the potential size of an earthquake that could strike the plant. However, on 30 March this year, the court ruled that Shikoku has used reliable measures in calculating the basic earthquake ground motion at the site and rejected the petition. In April, the plaintiffs appealed the decision in the Hiroshima High Court.

The high court has now overruled the district court's decision and ordered the suspension of Ikata 3's operation. The injunction is effective until the end of September 2018.

The ruling marks the first time a high court has overruled a lower court decision on issues related to reactor restarts. Similar lawsuits and other injunctions seeking to halt operation of Ikata 3 have been filed with other district courts in nearby Matsuyama, Yamaguchi and Oita.

Ikata 3 is currently offline for maintenance and periodic inspections and was scheduled to restart on 22 January.

Shikoku said the high court's ruling was "extremely disappointing" and it would "promptly" file an appeal against its decision.

Of Japan's 42 operable reactors, five have so far cleared inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards and have resumed operation. These are: Kyushu's Sendai units 1 and 2; Shikoku's Ikata unit 3; and Kansai's Takahama units 3 and 4. Another 19 reactors have applied to restart.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News