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Plaintiffs, supporters rejoice over court's decision to suspend Ehime nuclear reactor

This file photo dated March 28, 2017 shows the No. 3 reactor, center left, of Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata nuclear power plant in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture. (Mainichi)

Supporters of plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit demanding that a nuclear reactor in western Japan be taken offline rejoiced on Jan. 17 as the Hiroshima High Court issued a provisional disposition ordering Shikoku Electric Power Co. to halt operations of the reactor.

One supporter hailed the court's order to suspend operations of the No. 3 reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Station in Ehime Prefecture as a "fresh reminder from the court that Japan is prone to earthquakes."

The ruling came on the 25th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that devastated southern Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan, including the city of Kobe. After news of the court's decision emerged, supporters who had gathered in front of the high court in Hiroshima's Naka Ward shouted, "We won," while one individual close to the local supporters raised a sign with the words "suspension of reactor" written in red.

"The court decision was based on (the threat of) earthquakes on the 25th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake," commented Satoru Nakamura, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs of nearby Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Legal action over the reactor was first filed in March 2017, when three residents of islands in the Seto Inland Sea sought its suspension through a provisional disposition. The Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court, however, ruled that Shikoku Electric's safety measures were sufficient.

In December 2017, the Hiroshima High Court ordered Shikoku Electric to halt the operations of the same reactor, citing the risk of a volcanic eruption. But this order was overturned after the company filed an appeal against the high court decision.

In the latest provisional disposition in favor of the plaintiffs, the high court judged that Shikoku Electric had not properly researched the active fault near the reactor.

"While believing in the justice of the judiciary, we continued to be betrayed. But I'm really glad we kept on believing in justice," said Norio Kimura, 63, a resident of the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Hikari who is leading plaintiffs in ongoing legal action.

The latest high court injunction ordered that the reactor must remain offline until the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court rules on a full-scale lawsuit demanding that operation of the reactor be banned.

In a press conference held by those including supporters after the ruling on Jan. 17, lawyer Nakamura commented, "To prevent the decision from being overturned again, we must try even harder."

(Japanese original by Misa Koyama and Akari Terouchi, Hiroshima Bureau, and Yongho Lee, Fukuyama Bureau)

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