HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday accepted an appeal by Shikoku Electric Power Co. allowing it to restart a halted reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, saying worries over a volcanic eruption damaging the plant are groundless.
The decision is an about-face from its earlier provisional injunction that demanded the utility halt the No. 3 unit at the plant until the end of this month, citing safety risks associated with potential volcanic activity in a nearby prefecture.
The temporary suspension order, issued last December following a request from a local opposition group, marked the first case in which a high court had prohibited operations at a nuclear plant since the 2011 triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant led to a nationwide halt of such plants.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said in the ruling, “There is no reason to believe in the possibility of a destructive volcanic eruption during the plant’s operating period and there is only a small chance of volcanic ash and rocks reaching the plant,” which is about 130 kilometers away.
Following the court’s decision, Shikoku Electric said it will reboot the No. 3 reactor on Oct. 27. The unit has been idle for maintenance since October last year.
That decision constituted a major victory for the nation’s anti-nuclear movement and dealt a blow to the central government and utility firms, which are hoping to bring more reactors back online.
Shikoku Electric claimed in the appeal that it believes there is a “low possibility” of the volcano having a large-scale eruption while the reactor is in operation.
Plaintiffs, however, argued that the resumption of operations at the plant is “unreasonable” because of a “high risk of an accident.”