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Politics

Japan's Shikoku Electric ordered to freeze nuclear reactor

High court sides with local residents concerned about volcano risk

Shikoku Electric Power operates the Ikata nuclear plant in western Japan's Ehime Prefecture.   © Kyodo

OSAKA -- Japanese utility Shikoku Electric Power has received a court order to suspend the No. 3 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power station in the western prefecture of Ehime.

The Hiroshima High Court's suspension order takes effect immediately, dealing a new blow to a nuclear industry that has struggled to regain its footing since the tsunami-triggered Fukushima disaster back in 2011. The Ikata reactor is currently down for regular maintenance, but Shikoku Electric had been planning for a restart in April.

The court overturned a lower court ruling issued last March. Three plaintiffs living on islands in Yamaguchi Prefecture, within 50 km of the reactor, had asked for a suspension citing concerns that a volcanic eruption by Mount Aso could cause a major disaster. The mountain is roughly 130 km away.

The plaintiffs appealed immediately after their claim was rejected, and the Hiroshima High Court took their side. The residents also argued that the Japanese nuclear regulator's safety standards are inadequate.

Shikoku Electric's Tokyo-listed shares plunged following the high court's decision, closing almost 6% lower than the previous day.

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