Japanese Court Clears Sendai Nuclear Reactors for Restart

A Japanese court has rejected a petition to halt the restart of two reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant, putting the country on course again to revive its long-stalled nuclear power sector. 

The Kagoshima district court in southwest Japan rejected claims by residents that nearby volcanoes pose risks to the Sendai plant, and that evacuation plans are insufficient.

The decision is a victory for Kyushi Electric Power Co., the operator of the Sendai nuclear plan that is facing legal challenges against four of its 11 reactors.

The ruling comes only a week after a court in western Japan’s Fukui Prefecture found for resident petitioners and froze plans to restart Units 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear plant, citing concerns about whether the reactors could sustain a strong earthquake.

Kansai Electric Power Co. garnered the NRA’s approval to resume plant operations on Feb. 12, after months of meeting with the regulatory body to address compliance with new regulatory requirements. Kansai is expected to file an appeal.

Before it cleared Kansai’s Takahama Units 3 and 4 in February, the NRA cleared Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant last November.

The ruling on April 22 means that Kyushi has just one more regulatory obstacle to overcome before it can restart the reactors. The first Sendai unit could come online in June—after local elections in April.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)