Oi nuclear Plant ‘Safe’ to Operate

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A plaintiff and a lawyer hold signs on July 4 criticizing a ruling by the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch that nullified an injunction intended to halt operations at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Court overturns injunction, says Oi nuclear plant safe to operate

KANAZAWA–A high court branch here overturned a lower court order to halt operations of two reactors at a nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, saying it poses no tangible danger to residents there.
“The danger is within negligible levels in light of social norms,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Naito of the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch said on July 4, nullifying an injunction against Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the Oi nuclear plant.
Plaintiffs sought the injunction to block the restarts of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in Oi. They argued that dangers from the plant violated their right to protect their lives and sustain their livelihood.
The Fukui District Court sided with the plaintiffs in 2014, saying the plant was not thoroughly prepared to withstand a powerful earthquake.
The district court focused more on whether a tangible danger existed that could result in a serious accident similar to the one that hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, not on the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s decision to clear the Oi reactors for operations.
However, the high court said its decision was based on whether the NRA’s new safety regulations were appropriate, and whether the watchdog’s assessment that the two Oi reactors passed the safety regulations was reasonable.
The stricter regulations took effect in July 2013 based on lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“They were established by incorporating the latest scientific and technological expertise,” the high court said of the new standards.
The court supported both the NRA’s regulations and its decision to clear the No. 3 and 4 reactors as meeting the requirements.
Kunihiko Shimazaki, a seismologist and a former NRA member, raised doubts about the safety of the plant as a witness in the court proceedings.
He said the NRA’s current formula for calculating the scope of sway in an earthquake may have underestimated the expected maximum shaking from a powerful earthquake that could strike the plant.
The high court rejected Shimazaki’s argument.
“The extent of the maximum shaking was not underestimated because (the calculations) used an active geological fault zone larger than it should be in reality to provide an extra safety cushion,” the judge said.
The court also supported the NRA’s decision that the Oi reactors meet the new regulations concerning measures against tsunami and volcanic eruptions.
As for evaluating the soundness of nuclear power generation, the court said that is not its role.
“It will be possible to abolish and ban the operation of nuclear power plants in light of the grave consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but judging on the issue goes beyond the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” the court said. “(The nuclear issue) should be widely debated by the public and left to a political judgment.”
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