Two of Takahama’s nuclear reactors were shut down by a Japanese court amid ongoing safety concerns. On Wednesday, the Otsu District Court ordered Kansai Electric Power to halt operations at Takahama reactors numbers three and four until further notice. Officials said it was the first time a Japanese court shut down an operational nuclear power plant.
In March 2011, Japan was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The impact of the quake, and the subsequent tsunami, compromised several reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Nearly three months later, government officials admitted the plant experienced a nuclear meltdown.
In 2013, Japan’s nuclear power program was halted in an attempt to improve safety standards and prevent similar disasters in the future. Gizmodo reports more than 43 nuclear reactors were shut down during the extensive evaluation — which lasted nearly two years.
In August 2015, Kagoshima Prefecture’s Sendai nuclear power plant became the first to resume operations.
Takahama has a total of four nuclear reactors, which were all shut down during the crisis.
Kyushu Electric Power began restarting the Takahama nuclear reactors in 2015. Number one was restarted in August, number two in October, number three in January 2016, and number four in April.
Reactors one, two, and three appear to be functioning as expected. However, Reuters reports reactor four was shut down last week due to technical issues.
On Wednesday, the Otsu District Court filed an injunction to shut down Takahama nuclear reactor three and to prevent reactor four from being restarted.
— inoue toshio 子どもを守れ！ (@yuima21c) March 9, 2016
Japan Times reports the lawsuit was initiated by residents who are concerned about their personal safety and how a meltdown would impact their natural resources.
In their ruling, Otsu District Court officials pointed to ongoing technical issues with reactors number three and four. They also mentioned “concerns over the emergency protocol” for the entire plant.
The injunction could negatively impact the government’s plans for Japan’s nuclear power program. However, local residents are applauding the decision.
Emergency protocol plans, or the lack thereof, seem to be a serious issue. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster “exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive.”
RT reports thousands of residents lined the streets in August 2015 to protest the Sendai nuclear plant restart. Yoshitaka Mukohara, who led the protest explains.
“There are schools and hospitals near the plant, but no one has told us how children and the elderly would be evacuated… Naturally there will be gridlock caused by the sheer number of vehicles, landslides, and damaged roads and bridges.”
Although it was five years ago, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant crisis is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
— SBS News (@SBSNews) March 9, 2016
CNN reports the Japanese government already spent billions of dollars clearing contaminated soil and water away from the power plant and the surrounding area. According to reports, the waste, which includes more than 800,000 tons of radioactive water, will be stored indefinitely — as officials are unsure how to safely dispose of the trash.
Representatives with the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant, confirmed the clean-up could take up to 40 years.
According to a recent poll, a mere 36 percent of Japan’s residents support nuclear energy. Prior to the Fukushima crisis, that number was closer to 70 percent.
For many residents, the Takahama’s nuclear reactor shutdown is a blessing. However, it is unclear how long it will last. As the decision was made in a lower court, it could be overturned during an appeal. Kansai Electric confirmed they will appeal the decision.
[Photo By Hirorinmasa CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]