MIYAZAKI -- Residents in areas around the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture expressed disappointment at a high court's dismissal of their demand that operations at the power station be suspended.
Meanwhile, other residents who expect that the nuclear plant will bring economic benefits to the local community said they were relieved that the court endorsed operations at the No. 1 and 2 reactors of the power station.
The Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court upheld a Kagoshima District Court decision to dismiss the petition by residents around the plant in the city of Satsumasendai for a provisional injunction ordering that the plant be temporarily stopped. The petitioners had hoped that the appeal court would side with them, just as the Otsu District Court upheld a petition by residents around the Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture a month ago, ordering that the power station be stopped.
The petitioners as well as their supporters were furious when their lawyers came out of the court room and showed off banners saying, "Unjust decision" and "We will never surrender."
"It's extremely regrettable. It's just like a rehash of the Kagoshima District Court decision," said a grim-faced Masami Mori, head of the legal team for the petitioners.
At a subsequent news conference, Mori said, "The decision simply upheld Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s assertions without scrutinizing them. She then read a statement saying, "The court interpreted the law in a wrong way in handing down the decision to dismiss the petition. The court is unaware of the seriousness of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant."
Yuzuru Arakawa, 82, professor emeritus at Kagoshima University who participated in the petition, pointed out that the court does not take into consideration how to evacuate local residents in case of a nuclear accident. "
"Sufficient roads haven't been constructed in Kagoshima Prefecture. I wonder how many people can evacuate should an accident occur. The court failed to take this into account," he said.
Tomomi Tsukada, 45, a company employee from Aira, Kagoshima Prefecture, said she has not given up hope that operations at the plant will be suspended. "The outcome is regrettable, but we'll also launch a full-scale lawsuit. It's politics that should change the situation (regarding the restart)," she said.
On the other hand, a 43-year-old man who operates a restaurant in Satsumasendai, welcomed the court's decision. "I'm relieved as I'd hoped that the power plant would be reactivated and help revitalize the local community," he said.
Throughout the country, courts have been divided over whether to approve operations at atomic power stations.
Courts have handed down decisions on nine cases in which residents near nuclear plants filed petitions for provisional injunctions or lawsuits seeking suspension of operations at such power stations. In three of the cases, courts ordered that operations at nuclear plants be suspended.
This past March, the Otsu District Court issued a provisional injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend operations at the No. 3 and 4 reactors at its Takahama nuclear plant. In the ruling, the court said the new regulatory standards should have sufficient leeway to prevent any nuclear accidents.
In the latest decision, however, the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court ruled that the new regulatory standards worked out by the NRA are rational. "The standards are not required to guarantee absolute safety in light of social norms."
In 1992, the Supreme Court stated that inspections of nuclear reactors by government nuclear regulators are aimed at completely preventing a nuclear disaster. At the time, it was widely accepted that nuclear accidents would never occur as long as atomic power stations pass safety inspections by the government.
However, the myth of the infallible safety of nuclear plants is no longer accepted by the public even though the NRA claims that it has worked out the world's most strict regulatory standards.
The national government and the power industry are apparently relieved at the latest decision.
Regardless, considering that judiciary authorities are wavering over the safety of nuclear plants, power companies should seriously respond to public concerns about the safety of atomic power stations.