Court in Japan rejects request to keep Shimane No.2 reactor offline

A court in western Japan has declined to issue an injunction to block the restart of a reactor at the Shimane nuclear power plant.

The Matsue branch of the Hiroshima High Court gave the ruling on Wednesday. Four residents from Shimane and neighboring Tottori prefectures had filed a suit to prevent the plant's No.2 reactor from going back online.

The unit has been deactivated since 2012 when it went offline for regular inspections. Nuclear regulators gave the green light to reactivate the reactor in 2021. Chugoku Electric Power Company plans to restart it in December.

The plaintiffs argued that Chugoku Electric underestimated the maximum value of a tremor from a possible earthquake near the plant, as well as the volume of ash released by a potential volcanic eruption in the prefecture.

The court ruled that the utility had made a prudent quake estimate, with the assessment upheld by the nuclear regulators. It said the assumptions do not appear to have flaws or errors, and are therefore not unreasonable.

The presiding judge also said that geological surveys refute the scale of the risk of volcanic ash accumulation claimed by the residents.

The judge also rejected the plaintiffs' doubts about the feasibility of an evacuation plan in case of a nuclear accident. He dismissed the idea that there is a specific risk of an accident at the nuclear plant.