Reactor Restarts Threatened By New Legal Precedent

BMI View : The decision by the Fukui District Court to disallow Kansai Electric Power from restarting the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant highlights the risk local communities pose to reactor restarts. This decision by the court was due to opposition from local communities, and increases the risk to future reactor restarts as it could create a legal precedent for future lawsuits.

On May 21, the District Court of the Fukui Prefecture ordered Kansai Electric Power (Kepco) not to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at its Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui. The lawsuit to block the reactors from being restarted was filed by 189 plaintiffs in Fukui, and the court's rationale for the decision was that the safety of the idled reactors has not been ensured. This decision comes at a time when the government plans to restart idled nuclear reactors across the country once the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) confirms their safety. This is the first court order in Japan to ban nuclear plant operations since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

We had previously highlighted the risk local communities and governments pose to reactor restarts, and see this risk coming to the fore. The general public remains extremely wary towards nuclear energy, with polls showing that roughly half of the population are wary of all (or even partial) nuclear restarts ( see 'Rising Fuel Import Costs To Drive Nuclear Restarts', January 21). This is a major risk to reactor restarts as the local authorities must give their approval for reactors in their jurisdiction to be restarted.

Not All In Favour Of Restarts
Japan - Survey On Local Governments Opinions On Nuclear By Yomiuri, January 2013

BMI View : The decision by the Fukui District Court to disallow Kansai Electric Power from restarting the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant highlights the risk local communities pose to reactor restarts. This decision by the court was due to opposition from local communities, and increases the risk to future reactor restarts as it could create a legal precedent for future lawsuits.

On May 21, the District Court of the Fukui Prefecture ordered Kansai Electric Power (Kepco) not to restart the No. 3 and 4 reactors at its Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui. The lawsuit to block the reactors from being restarted was filed by 189 plaintiffs in Fukui, and the court's rationale for the decision was that the safety of the idled reactors has not been ensured. This decision comes at a time when the government plans to restart idled nuclear reactors across the country once the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) confirms their safety. This is the first court order in Japan to ban nuclear plant operations since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

We had previously highlighted the risk local communities and governments pose to reactor restarts, and see this risk coming to the fore. The general public remains extremely wary towards nuclear energy, with polls showing that roughly half of the population are wary of all (or even partial) nuclear restarts ( see 'Rising Fuel Import Costs To Drive Nuclear Restarts', January 21). This is a major risk to reactor restarts as the local authorities must give their approval for reactors in their jurisdiction to be restarted.

Not All In Favour Of Restarts
Japan - Survey On Local Governments Opinions On Nuclear By Yomiuri, January 2013

We believe that this court ruling increases the risk to reactor restarts across the nation. The ruling creates a legal precedent for local communities across Japan to try to prevent or at least delay reactor restarts, and could lead to additional lawsuits brought against nuclear operators. The NRA is currently conducting safety inspections at 18 reactors (at 11 plants), and lawsuits have the potential to materially delay these restarts. This is a serious risk to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan for urgent reactor restarts, and to our forecasts for nuclear energy. At present, we continue to see one or two reactors coming online in 2014, and are forecasting operational nuclear capacity of around 900MW for the year.

Fact Box: Reactor RESTART APPLICATIONS
Utility Plant Unit Type Capacity Start Date Status Application Status
Kansai Ohi No. 3 PWR 1180 Dec. 1991 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Kansai Ohi No. 4 PWR 1180 Feb. 1993 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Kyushu Genkai No. 3 PWR 1180 Mar-94 Idled Applied, July 12 2013
Kyushu Genkai No. 4 PWR 1180 Jul-97 Idled Applied, July 12 2013
Kyushu Sendai No. 1 PWR 890 Jul-84 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Kyushu Sendai No. 2 PWR 890 Nov. 1985 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Hokkaido Tomari No. 1 PWR 579 Jun-89 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Hokkaido Tomari No. 2 PWR 579 Apr. 1991 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Hokkaido Tomari No. 3 PWR 912 Dec. 2009 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Kansai Takahama No. 3 PWR 870 Jan. 1985 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Kansai Takahama No. 4 PWR 870 Jun-85 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Shikoku Ikata No. 3 PWR 890 Dec. 1994 Idled Applied, July 8 2013
Tepco Kashiwazaki Kar No. 6 ABWR 1356 Nov. 1996 Idled Applied, Sept 27 2013
Tepco Kashiwazaki Kar No. 7 ABWR 1356 Jul-97 Idled Applied, Sept 27 2013
Tohoku Onagawa No. 2 BWR 825 Jul-95 Idled Made on Dec 27 2013
Chugoko Shimane No. 2 BWR 820 Feb. 1989 Idled Applied in December 2013
Chubu Hamaoka No. 4 BWR 1137 Sept. 1993 Idled Applied , February 14 2014
Source: BMI

There is still a possibility for Kepco's reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant to be restarted. Kepco can choose to restart the reactors should they clear the Nuclear Regulation Authority's safety checks, although doing so would expose it to the possibility of prosecution by the Fukui District Court. Additionally, the decision by the Fukui District Court can still be overturned by the High or Supreme Courts, and Kepco has already submitted an appeal on the decision to the Nagoya High Court. There have been two instances in which decisions by lower courts banning nuclear reactors from operating have been overturned by higher courts, meaning that Kepco still has a decent fighting chance. That said, the entire legal process could take up to two or three years, and Kepco's financial performance would be severely impacted over the period.

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Related sectors of this article: Power, Nuclear - Power
Geography: Japan
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