Japan utility appeals court order to shut reactors

Monday March 14 2016

White smoke rising from the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

White smoke rising from the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. FILE PHOTO 

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A Japanese utility on Monday appealed a court decision which ordered the shutdown of two nuclear reactors even though they had been declared safe under tougher rules prompted by the Fukushima meltdown.

The Otsu District Court last week issued the ruling, the first since reactors were restarted under a more rigorous safety regime adopted after the 2011 disaster.

The court ordered the shuttering of Kansai Electric's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant 350 kilometres (215 miles) west of Tokyo.

The No. 4 reactor had been taken offline last month due to an unexpected technical glitch days after it restarted, while the No. 3 reactor was switched off soon after the court order.

A Kansai Electric spokesman said Monday that the utility "appealed the ruling" while also demanding that the shutdown reactors be allowed to restart pending the outcome of the appeal.

The shutdown order, issued Wednesday just two days before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, was a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's bid to bring back nuclear power.

Following the order, the number of operating reactors in Japan was reduced to two.

Dozens were shuttered in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns sparked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake-generated tsunami on March 11, 2011 that caused the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Abe declared last Thursday that Japan "cannot do without" nuclear power, as he pushes to get reactors back in operation for economic reasons.

The decrease in nuclear power generation after the disaster forced resource-poor Japan to turn to pricey fossil fuels.