Japan Court Paves Way for Restart of Shikoku Nuclear Reactor

A Japanese court overturned a decision barring the operation of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power plant, a win for the government’s efforts to revive the country’s idled atomic energy industry.

The Hiroshima High Court’s sided with the utility’s appeal, removing a temporary injunction that prevented the Ikata No. 3 nuclear reactor from operating, according to a live stream from the court house. A different judge in the same court issued a temporary injunction on the plant in January 2020, siding with plaintiffs who argued that the nation’s regulator didn’t properly assess volcano and earthquake risks.

Japan Court Paves Way for Restart of Shikoku Nuclear Reactor

Shikoku’s shares rose 6.3% in Tokyo on Thursday, the biggest gain on a closing basis in a year. The facility has been offline since December 2019 for maintenance, and its restart was delayed due to the previous order.

The decision is a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government, which has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. To meet that goal, Japan must restart almost every nuclear reactor it shuttered in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster and then build more, according to some members of a government advisory panel.

Deep public opposition has stalled the return of Japan’s nuclear fleet, with a raft of court challenges spurred by safety concerns. The country has restarted just nine of its 33 remaining operable plants since the regulator upgraded safety protocols in the wake of the 2011 disaster that resulted in the triple reactor meltdown at Fukushima Dai-Ichi.

The Ikata No. 3 reactor will be able to resume operations as early as October after finishing required upgrades, according to Daiwa Securities.

Kansai Electric Power Co. is also seeking to restart three reactors at its Takahama and Mihama nuclear power plants as soon as this year. The utility is waiting for final approval from the governor of the prefecture that houses the units.

Underscoring the hurdles facing the industry, a separate Japanese court on Thursday ordered a bar on operations at the Tokai Dai-Ni nuclear power plant in Ibaraki prefecture, according to NHK. The facility, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., is currently offline, and won’t be ready to restart until at least December 2022 when it finishes required upgrades.

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