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Court rejects plea to halt Ikata nuclear reactor in western Japan

The No. 3 reactor, right, at the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, is pictured in this March 2017 file photo. (Mainichi)

MATSUYAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- A court on Friday rejected residents' plea to halt a reactor operating at the Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan amid concerns about the robustness of an evacuation plan in the event of an accident.

    The Matsuyama District Court ruled against the residents' request to stop Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s No. 3 reactor at the plant in Ehime Prefecture. In March, the Hiroshima District Court also rejected calls for an injunction ordering the reactor to be halted.

    The focal points of Friday's decision were the feasibility of the evacuation plan, the effectiveness of new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, and the likelihood of potential quakes assumed by the utility in designing the reactor's seismic resistance.

    The residents argued that the utility underestimated the possible impact of quakes that may hit the plant, and the resumed operation of the reactor last August has violated their rights as evacuation would be difficult for those who live on the tip of the nation's most elongated peninsula of Sadamisaki where the plant is located.

    The utility claimed that it has taken proper safety measures against potential quakes and tsunami, and that the evacuation plan in place has been deemed reasonable by the government.

    Eleven people in Ehime Prefecture filed for an injunction in the case. The reactor, which was restarted after clearing the stricter post-Fukushima regulations, has experienced no major trouble, according to Shikoku Electric.

    "It was a disappointing decision. We will continue to fight to stop the reactor at any court," a lawyer for the residents said, suggesting that they will consider appealing the decision to a higher court.

    Similar requests seeking an injunction halting the Ikata plant reactor are pending at courts in Hiroshima, Oita and Yamaguchi prefectures. In Hiroshima, residents filed an appeal with a higher court after their claim was rejected by the Hiroshima District Court.

    "The (Matsuyama District Court) accepted our claim that we have ensured safety. It was a reasonable judgment," Shikoku Electric said in a statement.

    In contrast to the latest decision, the Otsu District Court issued an injunction in March last year, forcing Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama plant on the Sea of Japan coast, though the decision was overturned by a higher court a year later.

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