A high court in Hiroshima has given the green light to restart a reactor on Japan's Shikoku island, revoking an injunction issued last year and clearing the way for the remaining 39 inactive reactors in Japan to be brought back online.
The court upheld Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s appeal to restart the nuclear reactor in Ehime, western Japan, despite ongoing concerns that a volcanic eruption could damage the plant.
Despite having earlier sided with residents groups about the potential threat to the Ikata power plant by volcanic activity from Mt. Also in Kumamoto Prefecture, the court stated Tuesday that those claims were not backed by solid scientific evidence.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki was quoted as saying that there was only a remote possibility that volcanic ash and rocks would reach the plant should there be an eruption at Mt. Aso, which is about 130 km away.
Shikoku Electric president Hayato Saeki said in a statement that the court’s decision to remove the previous injunction, which would have expired this month anyway, “proves the facility’s safety.”
“We will begin preparing the facility to resume operations,” he said. The utility reportedly plans to reboot the reactor and bring it back online by Oct. 27.
Other residents groups in nearby Oita, Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures, however, are continuing court proceedings to block the restart.
Yet, the ruling, which has paved the way for Japan’s ninth reactor to restart since the March 2011 nuclear disasters in Fukushima, are widely viewed as providing a much-needed boost to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal to bring dozens more reactors back online and reduce Japan’s current dependency on costly coal and fossil fuel imports, which are threatening to derail Japan's carbon emission reduction goals, set during the Paris Accord.