In a historic ruling described as a "wake-up call" for both the nuclear industry and the Japanese government, a district court on Wednesday ordered the shutdown of Takahaka Nuclear Plant in western Japan—a decision that was welcomed by residents and local officials who said the plant posed health and safety risks.
The order, coming just days before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, will bring the number of operating nuclear reactors in Japan down to two. According to news outlets, it is the first injunction issued in Japan to halt a nuclear plant that is currently operational.
"It's a clear message that nuclear power has no place in Japan's energy future."
—Hisayo Takada, Greenpeace Japan
The Japan Times reports:
The lawsuit that sought the injunction was filed by Shiga residents who are fearful that an accident at the Takahama plant, which lies less than 30 kilometers from the northern part of Shiga Prefecture, would impact Lake Biwa, the nation’s largest freshwater body and the source of water for about 14 million people in the Kansai region, including Kyoto and Osaka.
Plaintiffs and local residents reportedly cheered and held banners after the ruling. "I'm so happy and praise the court's courage," said one person celebrating outside the courthouse.
"This is a wake-up call for nuclear industry and the government," Reuters quoted Mutsuyoshi Nishimura, a former Japanese government official and chief climate change negotiator, as saying. "They can no longer take for granted that the judiciary will follow the old ways."
And Hisayo Takada, deputy program director at Greenpeace Japan, added in a statement: "This is a landmark victory for people living in the shadow of shut-down reactors across Japan and a devastating blow against the nuclear industry and the policies of the Abe government. It's a clear message that nuclear power has no place in Japan's energy future."
The court's decision is in line with public opinion. Polls have shown that the majority of Japanese citizens want to end nuclear power in the country. Last summer, thousands protested the restart of Reactor No. 1 at the Sendai nuclear plant, about 620 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Meanwhile, a survey publicized this week found that fully two-thirds of Japan's local authorities—the heads of prefectural, city, ward, town, and village governments across the island nation—think the government should reduce, if not eliminate completely, its nuclear power capacity.
The Kyodo News survey found that nearly 45 percent of the 1,782 respondents "sought cuts in Japan’s dependence on nuclear power and 21 percent requested the eventual abolishment of nuclear power generation," according to Japan Today. "Many of them cited concerns about the safety of nuclear power and the disposal of nuclear waste."
A report from Greenpeace last week warned there is "no end in sight" to the ecological fallout from the Fukushima meltdown, and that "the government's massive decontamination program will have almost no impact on reducing the ecological threat from the enormous amount of radiation" released after the disaster.
Still, authorities have started to open up areas near the damaged reactors that were previously off limits, and government housing aid is set to end next year—adding to the pressure people feel to move back.
"The government abandoned the people of Fukushima, even the children. Now the policy is to push us to go back," one nuclear refugee told the Associated Press. "It's a policy that forces radiation upon people."