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Japan’s Takahama nuclear reactors ordered off line

09 Mar 2016 07:51 GMT
Japan's Takahama nuclear reactors ordered off line

Kyoto, 9 March (Argus) — A Japanese court today issued an injunction ordering utility Kansai Electric Power to stop operating two nuclear reactors at its Takahama plant, dealing a fresh blow to efforts to boost Japan's nuclear power supply.

The court injunction is effective immediately, forcing Kansai to halt operations at the 870MW No. 3 reactor at Takahama. It may also complicate efforts to restart the 870MW No. 4 reactor, which Kansai brought back on line briefly last month before a technical problem forced a shutdown.

Today's ruling by the Ohtsu district court finds in favour of a case brought by 29 residents in Shiga prefecture, adjacent to Fukui prefecture where the Takahama plant is located, who sought the injunction on safety grounds. Kansai has failed to address residents' concerns over accident-prevention measures and emergency procedures, the court said, while it also questioned the effectiveness of the firm's tsunami defences and evacuation procedures.

The residents group earlier filed a petition with the local court in January last year seeking a provisional order to prevent Kansai from restarting the No. 3 and 4 reactors at Takahama, arguing the company had underestimated the possible impact of an earthquake on the plant posing the risk of a serious accident.

Kansai plans to soon appeal to the Ohtsu district court to cancel the order. A similar injunction barring Kansai from operating the two Takahama reactors was issued in April last year, following a petition by Fukui prefectural residents. That injunction was overturned in December, allowing Kansai to restart the No. 3 reactor on 29 January and the No. 4 reactor on 26 February.

But the No. 4 reactor has been shut since 29 February because of a technical trouble. Kansai today submitted a report to Japan's nuclear regulation authority (NRA) on its investigation into the 29 February incident, including details of preventive measures. The company was waiting for the NRA's reaction to the report to see if it could resume work to restart the No. 4 reactor, before today's court ruling complicated any restart.

Kansai is likely to be forced to maximise thermal power generation to cover its nuclear shortfall in the coming months. The company last year consumed 8.3mn t of LNG for power generation, down by 2pc on a year earlier, while coal and oil burning rose by 7pc to 4.4mn t and fell by 21pc to 70,000 b/d respectively.

The Takahama shutdowns would leave Japan with just two operational nuclear reactors. Kyushu Electric Power restarted the 890MW No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima prefecture in August, followed by the plant's 890MW No. 2 reactor in October.

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