OTSU -- Residents here expressed joy over the March 9 injunction issued by the Otsu District Court to halt the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture, lauding the judicial branch for "making such a courageous decision."
The ruling came despite the fact that the two reactors were reactivated after passing safety clearances under the new regulatory standards introduced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. The provisional injunction marked the first time that reactors in operation have been ordered to be halted.
Shortly past 3:30 p.m., Yoshinori Tsuji, 69, a resident of Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture, who represents a group of plaintiffs in the injunction petition, and others raised a banner reading "Landmark decision!" and "Decision banning operation of reactors, which protects our lives and Lake Biwa!" In response, about 100 people including petitioners and their supporters erupted in cheers in front of the Otsu District Court, with some hugging each other and shedding tears amid chilling rain. "We stopped it," said one of them, while another shouted, "We did it!"
"I feel as if I'm in heaven," said Katsuhiko Aota, 74, who evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Minamisoma to Otsu following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and is one of the plaintiffs in the injunction petition. His 66-year-old wife, Keiko, was overjoyed as she could celebrate her birthday that day with the epoch-making ruling. "The reactivation of the Takahama plant disregards the pains of people in Fukushima," she said, adding, "It is only natural that the court has made this decision amid the ongoing Fukushima crisis. Today is the best day for me over the past five years (after the disaster)."
The plaintiffs released a statement calling on Kansai Electric Power Co., the operator of the Takahama plant, not to appeal the injunction or request the suspension of the injunction. They also urged the NRA to start reviewing the new regulatory standards and the government to shift its policy toward zero nuclear power.
At a press conference held in Otsu from 5:30 p.m., Tsuji said, "I got goosebumps when I read the sentence (of the ruling), 'The No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama plant must not be operated.' I surmise the presiding judge was aware that the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster was approaching when he handed down the ruling today."
Another plaintiff said, "I was glad the ruling concluded that the government holds responsibility for resident evacuation plans (for nuclear disasters)."
Kenichi Ido, a lawyer representing the petitioners' group, pointed out that the ruling "is different from previous decisions in that it calls on Kansai Electric Power Co. to verify how it reinforced the designs and operations of the nuclear plant and how the utility responded to requirements in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster."
He continued, "The ruling also raises questions about the new regulatory standards, stating, 'Regulatory standards that also encompass evacuation plans (for nuclear disasters) are called for.' I'd like to express my deep respect for the judge as he may have been under a great deal of pressure before handing down the ruling." Ido himself is known to have delivered a landmark ruling in 2006 that ordered the No. 2 reactor at the Shika nuclear plant in Ishikawa Prefecture be halted when he was serving as a judge at the Kanazawa District Court.
Fukushima disaster evacuees who are living elsewhere in the country were also pleased with the March 9 court decision, as were the plaintiffs of other similar lawsuits filed with courts across the country.
Yoichi Idogawa, 73, an evacuee from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma -- home to the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant -- to the prefectural city of Aizuwakamatsu, said, "It may be fine if reactors were reactivated after safety measures and evacuation routes are ensured, but that is not the case. The ruling is good in preventing others from experiencing the same distress as we have."
Norio Kanno, mayor of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, whose residents were forced to evacuate despite the village being located over 30 kilometers away from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, said, "It is absolutely necessary to provide sufficient explanations to residents who are concerned about safety regardless of the distance from nuclear plants. In that sense the ruling acknowledged the voices of residents in Shiga Prefecture even though it doesn't host a nuclear power station."