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Japan court rejects local call to prevent restart of Ikata reactor

The No. 3 reactor of Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata Nuclear Power Plant is seen in this file photo taken on March 28, 2017. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) -- A Japanese district court rejected on Friday a call from residents in western Japan to maintain the suspension of operations at a Shikoku Electric Power Co. nuclear reactor, saying the plant is unlikely to be hit by a major volcanic eruption.

A provisional injunction issued in December by the Hiroshima High Court had barred the utility from restarting its Ikata power plant's No. 3 unit until Sept. 30 due to safety concerns, and the residents filed in May for the extension.

However, the injunction was nullified on Sept. 25 by the same high court, which brushed aside as "groundless" local worries of a volcanic eruption in Kumamoto Prefecture damaging the Ehime Prefecture plant, about 130 kilometers away.

Keeping in line with the high court decision, the Hiroshima District Court's Presiding Judge Takahiko Fujisawa said Friday the likelihood of a major eruption occurring at Mt. Aso in Kumamoto is "very low."

"There is no risk that needs to be removed immediately with the injunction," Fujisawa said, noting the utility has also taken measures to protect its emergency power generators from volcanic ash.

Shikoku Electric has said it intends to restart the No. 3 reactor on Saturday. The reactor has been idle for maintenance since October last year.

The utility welcomed the district court's decision, saying it "accepted our claim that safety is ensured at the No. 3 unit."

The company fell into the red in this April-June quarter due to a rise in the costs for coal- and oil-fired power generation and reduced output.

With the restart of the Ikata facility, the company expects to return to the black in the full year ending next March.

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