Japan court rejects attempt to block Sendai reactor restart

Sendai power plant in Satsumasendai, Japan (file image) Image copyright Reuters

A court in Japan has rejected an attempt by local residents to halt the restart of two nuclear reactors at the Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture.

Kyushu Electric Power already had official approval to resume operating, but the residents wanted to stop this, voicing concerns about safety.

In a similar case last week, a court in Takahama ruled in favour of residents.

All of Japan's 48 nuclear reactors were taken offline after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima plant.

Before the accident, caused by a massive quake and tsunami, about 30% of Japan's power was nuclear-generated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lobbied for a restart, arguing that the shutdown has hurt the economy by forcing Japan to import expensive fossil fuels to make up the power shortfall.

But public anxiety about the safety of nuclear power remains high.

The governor of Japan's Kagoshima prefecture and the local authorities in town of Satsumasendai have already given their approval to the restart of the No1 and No2 Sendai reactors.

But one group of local residents argued that Kyushu were underestimating the threat posed by nearby volcanoes and did not have adequate evacuation plans in place.

Wednesday's decision by the Kagoshima District Court to reject that objection means the reactors could be operational again by June.

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Media captionThe robot has produced the first video from inside the reactor, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports

It comes just a week after residents in the western city of Takahama were successful in their attempt to block a restart.

The court agreed with nine local residents who argued that Kansai Electric was being overly optimistic in assuming that no major quake would hit the region.

The Takahama court accused the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) safety standards as "lacking rationality". The reactors cannot be restarted unless Kansai Electric can overturn the injunction.

The BBC's Japan correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says Wednesday's ruling will be crucial for Mr Abe and his government, raising hopes a number of other reactors will also come back online within the next year or two.

A second ruling in favour of resident would have delayed the entire plan and put the nuclear industry in doubt, he adds.

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