On July 4th, the Kanazawa Branch of the Nagoya High Court overturned the Fukui District Court’s decision (May 21, 2014) to suspend operations of Units 3 and 4 (both PWR, 1180 MW) of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s (KEPCO’s) Ohi Nuclear Power Station, dismissing the suit brought by citizens. For detailed coverage of the Fukui District Court’s decision, be sure to have another look at NIT No. 160.
KEPCO objected to the Fukui District Court’s ruling, filing an appeal with the Kanazawa Branch of the Nagoya High Court. The decision it obtained this time owed to acceptance of its claims in their entirety. Only one witness from the citizens’ side was allowed to testify, and KEPCO, who had been anticipating victory via control over court proceedings, forcing the trial to conclusion, had already gone ahead and restarted the reactors prior to the ruling, with Unit 3 restarted on March 14th and Unit 4 on May 9th, on the basis of their conformance with the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) new standards.
The decision by the Kanazawa Branch of the Nagoya High Court recognized KEPCO’s extremely abstract claims that the notable underestimations of basic seismic ground motion at the Ohi nuclear plant pointed out by Kunihiko Shimazaki, former acting chairman of the NRA–the sole witness allowed to testify from the citizens’ side–were somehow covered. At any rate, as its major premise, the decision declares, “Our country’s current legal system recognizes nuclear power generation as a peaceful use of atomic energy.” The judgment document devotes a lot of space to explaining the NRA’s examination procedures and describing details of how KEPCO followed procedures in writing up its application. It affirms that these are entirely “reasonable.”
Moreover, regarding the above statement about nuclear power generation’s legal recognition in Japan as a peaceful use of atomic energy, it says. “This point, of course, is a matter of legal system or policy choices, and it would have been entirely possible to abolish or ban nuclear power generation itself as the path our country must take in light of the current serious state of harm from the Fukushima nuclear accident. Decisions on the propriety of such, however, are now beyond the role of the judiciary, constituting a matter that should be discussed widely by the nation’s citizens and entrusted in that context to political decisions by legislative and governmental bodies.”
The July 6th issue of the energy and electricity daily The Denki Shimbun expressed great joy over the ruling, with a headline proclaiming “A Political, Not Judicial Decision.” Perhaps this is an indication of apprehension that this time they won, but next time might be different.
President Tomoaki Kobayakawa of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (TEPCO) held a consultation with Governor Masao Uchibori of Fukushima Prefecture on June 14, announcing that he was giving definite consideration to decommissioning all of the Fukushima Daini NPP reactors, Units 1 through 4 (each BWR, 1100 MW). At a press conference afterwards, he explained, “I consulted with the board of directors and gained their consent for this major course of action.” Fukushima Prefecture, the prefectural assembly, all cities, towns and villages in the prefecture and their assemblies have been calling for decommissioning of the Fukushima Daini NPP, and now its achievement finally appears certain.
Of the 54 nuclear reactors Japan counted prior to the Fukushima nuclear accident, 19 are slated for decommissioning, including the four Fukushima Daini units.
The Unit 4 reactor (PWR, 1180 MW) of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai NPP was restarted on June 16th, with power transmission commencing on the 19th. With this, a total of nine nuclear reactors in Japan have been restarted, being deemed in conformity with the new standards. No further reactors are expected to be restarted after this, however, for the foreseeable future. KEPCO’s Mihama Unit 3 (PWR, 826 MW) and Takahama Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 826 MW) which have all been approved for 60 years of operation, have also been found to meet the new standards, as have TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Units 6 and 7 (both ABWR, 1356 MW). Examination documents recognizing the conformance of the Tokai No. 2 Power Station were completed on July 4th, with public comments attached. Nevertheless, these face the barriers of required additional construction work and local approval that must be gained before they can be restarted. The Tokai No. 2 Power Station cannot be restarted until its construction plans are approved and it also gains approval to extend its operational life to 60 years.
As mentioned above, Kyushu Electric Power Co. has restarted the Genkai Unit 4 reactor. With the Genkai Unit 3 (PWR, 1180 MW) and Sendai Units 1 and 2 reactors (each PWR, 890 MW) having been restarted earlier, Kyushu Electric Power is now operating a total of four units. On the other hand, when demand for electric power fell off during a ten-day period with many consecutive holidays, from April 28th to May 6th, there were three days on which solar photovoltaic generation accounted temporarily for more than 80% of electricity generated. At that time, Sendai Units 1 and 2 were undergoing periodical inspections and Genkai Unit 4 had not yet been restarted, so only Genkai Unit 3 was operating.
When all four units are operating, it will not be possible to adjust the output of nuclear power plants, so it looks as if some measures will be taken to restrict solar photovoltaic generation.
The NRA approved plans by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) on June 13th for decommissioning its reprocessing plant in Tokai. The entire decommissioning process as planned is expected to take 70 years, with vitrification of 430 m3 of accumulated high-level radioactive liquid wastes to be finished in 12 and a half years as an effort to reduce risks. It is said that the cost of decommissioning will be roughly 1 trillion yen, but increases are expected.
The Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan (NuRO) announced on June 12th that the total project cost of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited’s (JNFL’s) Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility would be about 13.93 trillion yen. A year ago, in July 2017, NuRO estimated the cost at about 13.86 trillion yen, up by about 1.3 trillion from the original estimate, due to additional construction of safety countermeasures to meet the new regulatory standards. This year’s further increase of 70 billion yen—and more increases are expected—arise from delays in construction completion.
Roughly ten years after his initial claim for worker’s compensation and six and a half years since his lawsuit at Fukuoka District Court, this unjust verdict has been handed down in an attempt to bury the realities of horrifyingly severe labor conditions inside nuclear power plants. On July 11, without indicating any substantial judgment on Mr. Umeda’s claim, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court rejected Ryusuke Umeda’s claim as inadmissible as a reason for an appeal. The decision not to accept the petition for acceptance of final appeal was also handed down. Mr. Umeda had appealed to the Supreme Court because his lawsuit at the Fukuoka High Court was rejected on December 4, 2017. While working as a pipe fitter at the Shimane and Tsuruga NPPs in 1979, Mr. Umeda began to suffer symptoms such as nose bleeding, vertigo and general fatigue (see NIT No.168 for details). He was told, however, that these symptoms were unrelated to exposure to radiation, and it was denied that he had been forced to leave his dosimeter with the employer during work in order to affirm that his exposure dose had not exceeded 8.6mSv. Causality between exposure and myocardial infarction suffered by Mr. Umeda was also denied. Mr. Umeda and his legal team have vowed to continue the fight against this misconceived and unjust judicial judgement through ongoing and future trials brought by exposed workers.