The ruling dismissed a similar argument by Kepco in court, noting that it is legally irrelevant to discuss people’s fundamental rights to life on the same level as the question of rising costs of generating electricity.
It went on to say that even if Japan suffers large trade deficits because of the nuclear power plant shutdowns, the real loss of national wealth is when people become unable to live stable lives on their land — an apparent reference to the shattered lives of those residents around the Fukushima plant who were forced to flee their homes. The court also called the radiation fallout from the Fukushima disaster “the worst environmental contamination” in Japan’s history and brushed aside as completely missing the point the argument that the nation needs to have nuclear power as a clean energy that reduces emissions of global warming gases.
One of the key points of the ruling is that operation of the Oi reactors needs to be stopped if there is “even a slightest chance” that the reactors’ ability to keep cooling their cores and contain radioactivity could be lost — as happened in the case of the Fukushima No. 1 plant — if the plant is crippled by severe earthquakes.
The crucial point of the ruling is its contention that it is inherently impossible to determine on scientific grounds that an earthquake more powerful than assumed in the operator’s worst-case scenario would not happen. It noted that since 2005, four nuclear power reactors around the country have experienced quake shocks more powerful than the maximum level anticipated on their sites. It is “groundless optimism” in this quake-prone country that such a temblor would never hit the Oi plant, the ruling stated.
Officials say the district court ruling will not affect what they are doing. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says the government has no plans to change its policy of seeking the restart of reactors that have cleared the NRA’s screenings, with the consent of host municipalities.
NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka has also said the regulation authority will “continue our own examination of the Oi plant” based on the new safety standards.
The Abe administration and the power companies need to stop and reflect on the Fukui court ruling in the context of what the events of the Fukushima disaster. The core meltdowns at Tepco’s Fukushima plant took place after the operator deliberately underestimated tsunami risks and failed to take necessary precautions. When it hit, Tepco sought to excuse its lack of preparedness by characterizing the tsunami as simply beyond the scope of “conventional assumptions.”
What the ruling called the “groundless optimism” about safety of the Oi plant can be a malady common to all nuclear power plants in this country. The “safety myth” in nuclear power was shattered in the Fukushima disaster. Such a myth should not be resurrected.
Read more at OPINION: Reflect on Fukui nuclear ruling