Citizen Legal Challenge Filed against Oldest Kansai Electric Nuclear Reactors
RELEASE ENERGY 2016.04.14

Citizen Legal Challenge Filed against Oldest Kansai Electric Nuclear Reactors

Citizen Legal Challenge Filed against Oldest Kansai Electric Nuclear Reactors, Tokyo, 14 April 2016 – Today, citizens and residents threatened by the potential restart of the Kansai Electric Power Company’s (KEPCO) Takahama 1&2 reactors, located in Fukui prefecture, submitted legal filings challenging the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA) restart review process for these reactors.

The filings, which seek to halt the NRA’s review, cite major unresolved safety issues, regulatory failure, and inexcusable NRA assistance in helping KEPCO find shortcuts to rush through the process. If the NRA and KEPCO do not complete the review and the reactors granted approval before the 7 July 2016 regulatory deadline, KEPCO would be required to permanently shut them down.

“The two old Takahama reactors have major outstanding safety problems and are clearly not safe to operate. Instead of putting safety first and conducting a robust review, the NRA is aiding and abetting KEPCO in finding shortcuts to rush through the process. Today’s citizens’ legal challenge aims to act where nuclear regulation has failed, and stop this bankrupt process,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

Takahama 1&2 are 42 and 41 years old and have not operated since January and November 2011 respectively. KEPCO is seeking to operate the reactors for an additional 20 years beyond their 40 year operational life.

The citizens legal initiative is an administrative filing.(1) A total of 76 citizens, including Greenpeace staff, have joined the complaint, which has been prepared by lawyers from Nagoya, and lawyers from the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants. The major safety issues that form the basis of the legal challenge include: multiple age related problems, including degradation of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV), which could lead to a severe accident with major releases of radioactivity and the failure to address the major seismic risks for the old reactors at the Takahama site.

Plans to extend the operational lifetime of large numbers of reactor units to beyond 40 years globally, but particularly in Japan, is unrealistic and dangerous due to both aging-related safety problems and the costs to address them.(2)

All nuclear utilities in Japan remain in crisis, with only two reactors operating out of 54 that existed in 2011. Shikoku Electric announced on 25 March that it would permanently shut down its 39 year old Ikata 1 reactor, as it did not make financial sense to spend 200 billion yen ($1.77 billion) on so called upgrades to meet NRA regulations.(3)

For KEPCO, it’s even worse. All nine of its reactors remain shut down. In March, the Otsu district court upheld a citizens’ legal injunction request and ordered the immediate shutdown of the Takahama 3&4 reactors. In the case of the 40 year old Mihama 3 reactor, the cost of meeting the new safety standards required by the NRA has more than doubled to 270 billion yen, from the 129 billion yen originally predicted.(4) The reported costs for safety-related retrofits to all four Takahama reactors amount to a staggering 388.1 billion yen. Retrofits would need to be completed before the start up of Takahama 1&2, which is planned no earlier than October 2019.(5) As with Mihama 3, there are major questions as to whether KEPCO will be forced to permanently close the older Takahama reactors due to them being unable to recover from customers the multi-billion yen investments during the remaining 15 years of potential operation. KEPCO is facing increased competition from other utilities and independent power companies following liberalization of the domestic electricity market as of 1 April 2016. KEPCO has already announced the permanent closure of the Mihama 1&2 reactors in March 2015 due to poor economics.

“KEPCO’s reactors pose a severe accident risk to western Japan which would cause major contamination of Fukui, Kyoto, and Shiga prefectures and the wider Kansai region. KEPCO is desperate, but that is no justification for wasting billions of yen on reactors than can never be made safe and which put at risk millions of people,” said Ulrich.

The filings today are some of nearly 30 cases of lawsuits and requests for temporary injunctions made in Japan to suspend operations at 14 nuclear power plant sites after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

Media contacts
Kendra Ulrich, Greenpeace Japan, Senior Global Energy Campaigner, email: kendra.ulrich@greenpeace.org, mob: +81(0) 90 6478 5408

Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446

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