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Local residents decry court's ruling to not halt restart of Sendai nuclear plant

Residents near the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant and their lawyers hold a press conference in Miyazaki on April 6, 2016, after a court threw out their appeal to halt reactivation of the power station. (Mainichi)

MIYAZAKI -- Residents near the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture criticized a decision by the Fukuoka High Court's Miyazaki branch that rejected their appeal seeking a halt to reactivation of the power station, at a post-ruling press conference on April 6.

"The court abandoned its independent judgment," the residents criticized, as they alleged the court had deferred to a government policy of reactivating stopped nuclear plants.

"It's very unfortunate, but we will consider this as a long battle and calmly do what we can," said Akiko Morinaga, 44, one of the petitioners and the head of the plaintiffs in a full-scale lawsuit on the issue, at the press conference.

Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, joint head of a national association of lawyers fighting against nuclear power, said angrily, "The court's decision was a very careless legitimization of the national government's nuclear power promotion and plant reactivation policies."

He noted that the decision was similar to others seen before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, where courts took a stance that they would not evaluate the country's nuclear policy.

"It appears to be a re-emergence of the policy of passive courts," Kawai said.

Masami Mori, head lawyer for the residents, said, "I saw the ruling as saying, 'Nuclear power plants are accepted by society, so there is nothing to be done.'"

Plaintiffs engaged in lawsuits around the country to stop nuclear plant reactivations were disappointed by the ruling, as they had been hoping for a follow-up to the Otsu District Court's provisional injunction this past March ordering a halt to reactivation of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama Nuclear Power Plant.

The ruling, however, did agree with some parts of the petitioners' argument, such as that there are irrational parts of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA)'s guide for evaluating the effects of volcanic eruptions on nuclear power plants. Lawyer Yuichi Kaido said, "I don't see the ruling as simply accepting the national government's policies."

Public opinion on the ruling is divided between mainly eastern Japan residents wary of nuclear plant reactivation, and residents involved with the nuclear industry, who welcomed the ruling.

On the anti-nuclear side, lawyer Toshihiro Suzuki, who is representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit to have the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture decommissioned, lamented, "The judiciary is just abiding by the decisions of the government administration."

Junichi Tamatsukuri, head of the secretariat for a group of local assembly members against reactivation of the Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture and a former city assembly member of Mito, said, "The court ruling is one that says a reactivation can go ahead despite having an incomplete evacuation plan (for residents in case of disaster.) For nearby residents, the court decision brings only bad things, nothing good."

On the pro-nuclear side, nuclear power supporter Toshihiko Maruyama, member of the city assembly of Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, near the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, said, "I was skeptical of the Otsu District Court's provisional injunction that stopped reactivation of the Takahama nuclear plant, because I don't think a court should be allowed to make decisions in highly technical scientific fields. The new decision respects the decisions of the NRA."

A 48-year-old employee of a construction-related company in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, site of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear complex, was relieved by the new court decision. He said, "If the new safety standards (for nuclear plants) fall under suspicion, who knows when we will be able to reactivate the plants."

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