September 28, 2018 / 6:27 AM / 2 months ago

Japan court rejects bid to shut Shikoku Electric reactor

TOKYO (Reuters) - Regional utility Shikoku Electric Power Co moved closer to restarting its only operable nuclear reactor, when a court in Japan on Friday rejected a lawsuit that would have prevented operation of the nuclear unit.

The Oita District Court in western Japan rejected the lawsuit filed by residents of the prefecture, Shikoku Electric said in a statement.

The decision removes another potential legal obstacle to a restart of the reactor at Shikoku Electric’s Ikata station in western Japan, after a high court earlier this week overturned an injunction against operation of the plant in a separate case.

Residents near nuclear plants in Japan have stepped up legal challenges in recent years, after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown disaster led to widespread opposition to atomic power and the eventual shutdown of all the country’s reactors.

Several other lawsuits have been filed seeking a shutdown of the Ikata plant. Some of these may be decided before Oct. 27, when Shikoku Electric plans to restart Ikata’s No. 3 reactor, but the utility does not have to wait for the court decisions.

Many of Japan’s reactors are still going through a relicensing process after Fukushima, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, highlighted regulatory and operational failings at utilities.

Nine reactors, including Ikata No. 3, have received regulatory approval to restart, with seven of them in operation.

On Tuesday this week, the Hiroshima High Court lifted an injunction handed down in December 2017 that ordered Shikoku Electric not to restart the 890-megawatt reactor.

The reactor has been shut since October 2017 for scheduled maintenance and is now free to restart following the Hiroshima judgment. Other units at Ikata are slated for decommissioning.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue

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