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Economy

Reactor can restart in Japan after little risk seen from volcano

Shikoku Electric plans to resume operations at the Ikata plant in October

 The No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture   © Kyodo

OSAKA -- A Japanese court ruled Tuesday that a nuclear reactor operated by Shikoku Electric Power could restart, clearing the way for it to join the small handful of nuclear facilities that have resumed operating following a catastrophic earthquake in 2011. 

The Hiroshima High Court overturned Tuesday its own provisional injunction from December, accepting the utility's claim that a volcano in the vicinity poses little risk.

Following the decision, Shikoku Electric said it will restart the No. 3 unit at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Oct. 27.

High courts have often overruled suspensions handed down by district courts. Examples include the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric Power's Oi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture. With the Hiroshima high court's decision, all reactors that had temporary suspension orders on them are able to restart.

The chief issue in the Ikata case was whether a nearby caldera of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is at risk of erupting.

"No proof has been shown of the possibility that a large-scale, catastrophic eruption will occur, and the likelihood that [lava flows] will reach the reactor is sufficiently low," the court said in its ruling Tuesday.

But the restart could be stopped again by an Oita District Court decision due Friday on another provisional injunction to halt the Ikata unit.

The 890-megawatt No. 3 reactor is one of five across three plants nationwide to restart under standards introduced after the 2011 tsunami. It resumed operations in August 2016, but was halted in October 2017 for routine inspections. The shutdown has cost Shikoku Electric about 30 billion yen ($266 million), the company said.

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