Japanese court dismisses call to idle Ikata unit

30 March 2017

The Hiroshima District Court has today rejected a petition by a group of residents for a temporary injunction against the operation of unit 3 at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Japan's Ehime prefecture. The decision comes days after another court removed an injunction against the operation of Takahama units 3 and 4.

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 (NRA) to resume operation in April 2016. Shikoku Electric Power Company began the process to restart the 846 MWe pressurized water reactor on 12 August and the unit was declared back in commercial operation on 7 September.

Four residents from Matsuyama and Hiroshima filed a request with the Hiroshima District Court on 11 March last year, the fifth anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plaintiffs claimed that Shikoku Electric Power Company - operator of the Ikata plant - had underestimated the potential size of an earthquake that could strike the plant.

However, Shikoku argued that it has taken safety measures at the plant "based on the latest scientific knowledge" of the maximum magnitude quake likely to strike the area. The company said it has also made safety upgrades at the Ikata plant based on lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The utility announced today that the court had made the "reasonable decision" to reject the request for an injunction on the operation of Ikata 3.

The judge ruled that Shikoku has used reliable measures in calculating the basic earthquake ground motion at the site. He also said the NRA had been reasonable in its decision that the unit meets safety standards introduced following the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

According to the Kyodo news agency, 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.

The ruling by the Hiroshima District Court comes two days after the Osaka High Court lifted an injunction that has kept units 3 and 4 of Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear power plant offline for the past year. The court agreed with the utility that the units, which are in Fukui prefecture, are safe to operate. Kansai is now preparing to restart those units.

Five Japanese nuclear power reactors have already cleared inspections confirming they meet the new regulatory safety standards and have resumed operation. Another 19 have applied to restart. However, of Japan's 42 operable reactors, only Kyushu Electric's Sendai 1 and Shikoku's Ikata 3 are currently online.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News