Japan Nuclear Restart on Way After Kansai Electric Court Win

  • Court removes injunction preventing Takahama reactor restarts
  • Kansai Electric to begin fueling Takahama No. 3 unit tomorrow

A Japanese court has cleared the way for Kansai Electric Power Co. to restart two of its nuclear reactors early next year.

The Fukui District Court on Thursday removed an injunction preventing the operation of Kansai Electric’s Takahama No. 3 and No. 4 nuclear reactors, Tadashi Matsuda, a representative for the citizen’s group that initiated the case, said by phone. The court also rejected a demand by local residents to block the resumption of reactor operations at Kansai Electric’s Ohi plant.

“We think that today’s decisions are a result of the understanding that safety at Takahama and Ohi is guaranteed,” Kansai Electric said in a statement.

Residents of Fukui who oppose the restarts plan to appeal the ruling to a higher court, according to Matsuda.

Kansai Electric, the utility most dependent on nuclear power before the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, will begin fueling Takahama No. 3 on Friday, according to a statement released on its website. The company aims to restart the unit in late January or February, according to a presentation last month. It is slated to be the third Japanese reactor to restart under post-Fukushima safety rules.

Profit Boost

Firing up both units will boost Kansai Electric’s profits by as much as 12.5 billion yen ($104 million) a month, according to Syusaku Nishikawa, a Tokyo-based analyst at Daiwa Securities Co. The two reactors at the Takahama facility, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Kyoto, were commissioned in 1985 and have a combined capacity of 1,740 megawatts. 

Operations of the units were suspended in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that caused a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility. The units received restart approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in February, though court challenges stopped them from resuming operation.

On Tuesday, Fukui prefecture Governor Issei Nishikawa granted his approval for the restarts. While not enshrined in law, local government approval is traditionally sought by Japanese utilities before they return the plants to service.

Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai No. 1 and No. 2 units on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu are the only reactors to clear the regulator’s safety standards, receive local approval and resume operation under post-Fukushima rules. Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata No. 3 facility is slated to begin operation next year after receiving NRA and local approvals.

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