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Court orders shutdown of Japanese nuclear reactor

Sizewell B nuclear power net zero
Sizewell B, the last nuclear power plant built in the UK.

A court has issued an unprecedented order for a nuclear reactor in western Japan to stop operating and for a second one to stay offline.

Otsu District Court said the emergency response plans and equipment designs at the two reactors have not been sufficiently upgraded despite the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

The order requires Kansai Electric Power Co to shut down the No 3 reactor immediately and keep No 4 offline at the Takahama plant in Fukui prefecture, home to about a dozen reactors.

The two reactors restarted this year after a high court in December reversed an earlier injunction by another court.

The decision reflects Japan’s divided views on nuclear safety and leaves only two of the country’s 43 reactors in operation.

The No 3 reactor, which uses a riskier plutonium-based MOX fuel, resumed operation in late January, while No 4 had to be shut down late last month after operating for just three days because of a series of technical problems.

Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said the operator has not fully explained how it upgraded safety features at the two Takahama reactors under post-Fukushima safety standards. The utility has not fully explained its design philosophy or its measures to mitigate power loss and its evacuation plans in case of a severe accident and a massive tsunami.

Kansai Electric said the decision was “disappointing” and planned to appeal.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe’s government wants to restart as many reactors as possible. It says nuclear energy should remain a key power source for Japan, which has few natural resources to fuel its economy.

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