Japan not allowed restarting nuclear plant

Japan not allowed restarting nuclear plant

Ohi power station.

A Japanese court has forbidden Kansai Electric Power (TSE:9503) from carrying out a plan to restart two idled nuclear reactors at Ohi north, near Osaka, because their potential vulnerable to earthquakes.

The ruling is not only the first such intervention since the Fukushima disaster three years ago, but also marks the first time a lawsuit brought by anti-nuclear plaintiffs has been successful in Japan's forty-year history of nuclear power.

The rare victory for activists, reports Reuters, could disrupt an already complicated and politically charged effort to restart some of the 50 Japanese reactors that have been shut over safety concerns since the Fukushima accident.

Controversy has centered on the existence of an inactive geological fault line that runs underneath Ohi, which hosts four nuclear reactors —two of them built in the 1970s, and two built in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The two reactors at issue in the suit, at Ohi power station, were restarted temporarily in 2012 and remain the only units in the country to have been put back in use after Fukushima. But they were taken offline again in September last year for maintenance.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to restart some of his country's nuclear reactors. In April, his government published a long-delayed energy policy statement that aims to revive nuclear power as a core part of Japan's energy mix.

But restarting reactors means complying with a raft of new safety standards introduced in the country in the wake of Fukushima.

Since 2011, Japan has relied heavily on imported fossil fuels for its electricity generating needs. This has led, Deutsche Welle reported last week, to a negative trade balance for the past two years – an exceptional circumstance for a country that is an export powerhouse.

Image courtesy of Kansai Electric Power Co.