Japan court rejects lawsuit against construction of nuclear plant

Due to the 2011 Fukushima disaster, nuclear power is a contentious topic in Japan. (Reuters pic)

TOKYO: A court in northern Japan on Monday rejected a lawsuit to halt construction of a nuclear plant, said the company building the facility, Electric Power Development Co (J-Power).

The ruling by the Hakodate District Court in Hokkaido Prefecture on the Ōma plant will be welcomed by many utilities as they push for a return to nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, despite strong opposition from chunks of the public.

More than 1,100 residents in Hokkaido, among others, had filed the lawsuit in 2010 to prevent the Ōma plant from starting. The construction of the 1,383-megawatt plant, which will use mixed oxide fuel, a blend of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel, started in 2008, but work was suspended after Fukushima in 2011.

Building resumed in 2012 but has been delayed as the company has to meet new safety requirements imposed after the 2011 disaster, a company spokesman said. The station is about 38% complete, he said.

J-Power in 2016 pushed back the planned start of operation by two years to 2024-25.

“We are doing all we can for the start of operations in the 2024/25 business year,” the spokesman added.

The ruling marks the latest judgment on atomic power in the country, with critics of nuclear energy having more success in some other cases.

A high court in western Japan sided with residents last December to prevent the restart of a nuclear plant idled for scheduled maintenance, although lower court decisions have usually been turned down on appeal.