Statement on the Temporary Injunction Ruling Regarding the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant by the Hiroshima High Court
Today, the Hiroshima High Court handed down a temporary injunction compelling Shikoku Electric Power Corporation to stop operation of the No. 3 reactor of the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant (“Ikata NPP”).
Before the present case, the Fukui District Court handed down a ruling to halt the operation of the No. 3 and 4 Units of the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant in May 2014, and a temporary injunction against the No. 3 and 4 Units of the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant (“Takahama NPP”) in April 2015. The Ohtsu District Court also handed down a temporary injunction against the No. 3 and 4 Units of the Takahama NPP in March 2016. As these rulings were made at the district court level, it is quite significant for the Hiroshima High Court to have permitted the present claim for temporary injunction for the first time and to have handed down a ruling to order the halt of operations of the reactor until September 30 2018.
The decision was made according to the evaluation procedures in the volcanic eruption guidelines set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). It was found that it was difficult to judge whether the volcanic activity of the Mt. Aso caldera, located 130 kilometers away from the Ikata NPP, was weak enough during the operation of the reactor. As it is impossible to estimate how big an eruption of Mt. Aso would be, the judgment took the largest past eruption of Mt. Aso (“Aso-4” about 90,000 years ago) (volcanic explosivity index 7) as the basis for its assumption. The court found that it cannot conclude that the Aso-4 pyroclastic flow was very unlikely to reach Ikata NPP, and therefore judged that the Ikata NPP was not located in an appropriate location. Similar facts were also recognized in the decision with respect to the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant made by the Miyazaki Branch of the Fukuoka High Court (April 6, 2016) and in the original decision of this particular case made by the Hiroshima District Court (March 30, 2017). However, the court did not accept the claim of residents on the ground that, as long as the possibility of the occurrence of catastrophic eruption during the operation of the nuclear power plant was not demonstrated, the suspension of operations was against the social norms.
On the other hand, the Hiroshima High Court judged that, concerning the natural disasters that are specified to be considered in the volcanic eruption guidelines formulated by the NRA based on the latest scientific and technical knowledge, making an arbitrary change in the framework of the criteria for judgement relying on a limited interpretation based on social norms would go against the purpose of the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors and the regulatory requirements newly set up under such Act. Furthermore, the Hiroshima High Court admitted that the thickness of the layer of pyroclastic material and the air concentration at the time of eruptions on a smaller scale than those with pyroclastic flows were underestimated, and subsequently approved the suspension of operations.
This case has led to the handing down of a landmark decision as it was made from the viewpoint of the judicial responsibility to protect people from hazardous radioactive materials based on the personal right founded on the survival of people. The judgement made in regard to the eruption of pyroclastic flow can also be applied in an analogous manner to the nuclear power plants located in the Kyushu, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Tohoku areas, and the judgment on falling pyroclastic materials can be applied to all other nuclear power plants across the nation.
At its 2013 Convention on the Protection of Human Right, the JFBA adopted a resolution that objects against the reoperation of new clear power plants and prompts their early halt, given the situation where the causes of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have not yet been elucidated and there is no prospect of being able to prevent the reoccurrence of similar accidents. In this regard, we highly evaluate this decision which shares the same views and fundamental recognitions of the JFBA.
The JFBA requests Shikoku Electric Power Corporation to respect the court’s decision, and urges the government to rectify the present energy policies, to decide on the scrapping of nuclear power plants as soon as possible, to rapidly promote renewable energy policies, and to give the utmost support to those areas where nuclear power plants were constructed in order to enable them to achieve self-sustainable development.
December 13, 2017
Japan Federation of Bar Associations