Statement Regarding the Ruling Rendered by the Fukui District Court to Not Restart the No. 3 and No.4 Reactors of the Oi Nuclear Power Plant
The Fukui District Court rendered a decision on May 21, 2014, in which it ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. not to restart the No.3 and No.4 reactors of the Oi nuclear power plant (the “Oi plant”), on the grounds of the fundamental personal rights of the local residents living within a 250 km radius from the Oi plant. This was the first ruling on a lawsuit regarding a nuclear power plant since the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant accident in March 2011, except for provisional dispositions.
In previous administrative and civil cases concerning nuclear power plants, the courts did not evaluate materials submitted by administrative agencies and business operators carefully, from the point of view of compliance with applicable regulatory standards and the suitability for use in a conformance review, and, the courts had instead been approving broad discretionary powers to administrative agencies on scientific and technical issues. Further, given that the courts had been broadly accepting assertions and proof stated by administrative agencies and business operators regarding the safety of nuclear power plants, they had imposed an excessive burden of proof on residents regarding the lack of safety (of nuclear power plants), and as a result, the courts merely tended to confirm the assertions made by administrative agencies and business operators, and it cannot be said that appropriate judgments were rendered.
In contrast to the conventional treatment for such cases, in today’s ruling not to resume operations the court’s used its judgment to important effect. The present ruling was rendered based on the reasoning that in the event of the characteristics of the risks surrounding the technology as well as the size and level of the damage brought about by such technology already being known, a judgment should be made not within the framework of the conventional judgments regarding nuclear power plants, but instead should be based on the need to secure safety in accordance with such characteristics and the size and level of the risk for the residents. In addition, when issues such as the characteristics of nuclear power plants, the maintenance of the Oi plant’s cooling system and the details regarding the structure for sealing spent nuclear fuel were examined, doubts remained with respect to whether the technology for ensuring safety and the facilities concerning the Oi plant were not thoroughly prepared. On top of that, such technology regarding the safety and facilities of the Oi plant can only be established by using a highly optimistic perspective with no firm grounding, and can therefore be said to have been very fragile. The ruling was rendered under the deep regret of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident, and it is groundbreaking in the sense that such judgment has been made from the point of view of protecting the Japanese people from the risk of radioactive materials, based on the fundamental personal rights of protecting the lives of the Japanese people, and with a view to looking at the roles played by the judiciary. A number of the findings made in today’s ruling can also be held to apply to other nuclear power plants throughout Japan.
The JFBA adopted a resolution at the 56th Convention on the Protection of Human Rights that it would not approve the resumption of operations of nuclear power plants, and that such power plants should be abolished based on the reasons that the cause of the accident at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant has not yet been identified and the prospects for preventing the recurrence of such extent of accidents have not yet been measured. Since the ruling delivered today shares the same fundamental view as that held by the JFBA, we are highly appreciative of such judgment and give it full credit.
The JFBA strongly calls on the government to change its policies on conventional energy and nuclear power, to promptly abolish all nuclear power plants and to ensure the increased spread of renewable energy. Further, it calls on the government to provide necessary support to those areas in which nuclear power plants are located so that such areas can ensure independent development on their own without the need to financially depend on nuclear power plants.
May 21, 2014
Japan Federation of Bar Associations