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Japan Court Clears Reactor Restart in Win for Nuclear Push

A Japanese court paved the way for the nation’s ninth nuclear reactor to restart, boosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to bring dozens of plants back online following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday removed a temporary injunction against Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata No. 3 reactor, the company said in a statement. While the injunction ordered in December would end this month — meaning the utility could have restart the plant from Oct. 1 — the ruling is a symbolic victory for the government, which has often seen the courts stymie efforts to accelerate nuclear restarts.

Policy makers are seeking to restore the nation’s nuclear industry amid efforts to reduce reliance on costly fossil-fuel imports and cut carbon emissions. The battle in Japan over nuclear power has moved mostly to the courts, which have been used by groups opposed to the technology to keep plants shut. Seven of the nation’s 39 operable nuclear units are currently online, while one is under planned maintenance.

“The court decision to remove the injunction proves the facility’s safety,” Shikoku Electric President Hayato Saeki said in the statement. “We will begin preparing the facility to resume operations.

Shares Swing

Shikoku shares swung after the decision, rising as much as 1.7 percent and losing as much as 1.5 percent. The stock closed 0.5 percent higher at 1,569 yen. The utility said in a separate statement it will restart the Ikata reactor on Oct. 27 and begin sending power to the grid on Oct. 30.

The decision is positive for Shikoku Electric, as well as other utilities with higher dependence on nuclear, such as Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., according to Syusaku Nishikawa, a Tokyo-based analyst at Daiwa Securities Co.

There are roughly three dozen lawsuits pending against Japan’s nuclear facilities and the decision in favor of the utility may have some influence on future rulings, according to Datsugenpatsu Bengodan, a group of lawyers who oppose nuclear power. A nationwide survey by Mainichi Newspaper in February show the restart of nuclear reactors was opposed by almost half of the respondents, while about a third of them approved.

Last year, in a separate case, a Japanese high court overturned an injunction in place since March 2016 that barred Kansai Electric from operating two reactors at its Takahama facility in western Japan.

Source: Bloomberg