Fukui court ruling barring nuclear plant restart seen as precedent

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese plaintiffs suing to block nuclear power plants from resuming operation hope a recent victory in the Fukui District Court points the way forward.

Plaintiffs in 14 of at least 16 antinuclear lawsuits in courts around the country are using or will use the Fukui court decision in their arguments, lawyers involved in the cases said Saturday.

The lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggered by the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On May 21, the Fukui court ruled that it will not allow two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture to be restarted, citing risks to the public.

That ruling "has pointed out the potential risks applicable to any nuclear power plant, making it natural" for the plaintiffs to use the ruling as evidence in their cases, said Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer and co-head of a liaison group of lawyers involved in antinuclear lawsuits.

In the ruling, the Fukui court said nuclear plants are "merely a tool for generating electricity and thus inferior to people's fundamental rights" to life and that it "would be natural to suspend nuclear plants if they pose specific risks."

It also said plaintiffs who live within 250 kilometers of the Oi plant face real risks.

All 48 commercial reactors in Japan are idle after most were shut down for routine checkups. To be reactivated, they must pass a safety assessment based on a new set of regulations introduced last July, but none has yet passed the safety review.

After the Fukushima disaster, lawsuits to prevent nuclear power plants from being reactivated were filed at district courts nationwide, including Tokyo, Osaka, Shizuoka and Sapporo, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.

Plaintiffs fighting to stop Kyushu Electric Power Co. from reactivating two reactors at a nuclear power plant in southwestern Japan have cited the Fukui court ruling as evidence in arguments to the Kagoshima District Court where the case is being tried.

The reactors at the Sendai power plant are considered the closest to being allowed to restart.

Plaintiffs in four other suits, including one to stop the Nos. 1-3 reactors at Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture from operating again, also cited the May ruling.

And plaintiffs in nine other lawsuits also plan to do so, the lawyers said.

Those nine cases include ones to stop the reactivation of the Nos. 1-7 reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex in Niigata Prefecture, and the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors of Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa Prefecture.

Before the Fukui ruling, the only victory by plaintiffs against the restart of a nuclear power plant was in 2006 when the Kanazawa District Court ordered Hokuriku Electric not to operate the No. 2 reactor at Shika plant.

July 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)