**A court had ruled against a petition opposed to the restart of units 1 and 2 of the Sendai nuclear power plant in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture. The units now look set to resume operation later this year, becoming the first of the country’s reactors to be restarted since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in2011. **
A group of 12 citizens from Kagoshima and two neighbouring prefectures filed a petition in May 2014 claiming that new safety regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in July 2013 were too lax to protect the plant from earthquakes and volcanoes.
However, presiding judge Ikumasa Maeda at the Kagoshima District Court today ruled in plant owner Kyushu Electric Power Company’s favour, saying that according to the latest scientific knowledge the new safety requirements are adequate and that the plant is at no specific risk.
In a statement, Kyushu said the court’s ruling “supports our opinion that the safety of the Sendai nuclear power plant has been secured”.
Units 1 and 2 at Sendai successfully completed safety inspections by the NRA last September and have Kyushu has since obtained approval from the prefectural government and that of Satsuma-Sendai City for their restart.
Sendai unit 1 is the leading reactor in the process for restarting nuclear units. Kyushu gained the NRA’s approval for its ‘construction plan’ for the unit last month. This means the 846 MWe reactor unit is technically ready for restart, having been upgraded, and that these engineering changes have been verified by the regulator. It also means that Kyushu’s management, personnel training and operational methods are in line with the NRA’s demands.
Sendai 2 as well as Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama 3 and 4 are at the earlier stage, having made their upgrades, but awaiting the NRA’s confirmation of the work.
However, last week the Fukui District Court imposed an injunction on the restart of the two Takahama units following a similar petition from local residents. Kansai, which reportedly aims to restart the two reactors by November, has appealed that ruling.
Another 15 reactors are moving through the restart process, which has been prioritised to bring on the most-needed reactors first, in the localities and prefectures more supportive of restart. Publicly demonstrating the competency of both the power companies, the NRA and the process is an important factor in establishing public confidence in Japan’s nuclear power safety culture.