A Japanese court on Wednesday rejected a call by residents to halt the restart of a nuclear reactor in the northeast prefecture of Miyagi on the grounds that the emergency evacuation plans are flawed.
The Sendai District Court ruled that the plaintiffs' claims to halt the planned restart of the Onagawa nuclear plant's No.2 reactor in February 2024 are not relevant, as a serious accident is unlikely.
When handing down his decision, the presiding judge, Mitsuhiro Saito, said there was no need to take into account whether the evacuation plans were effective, as there is no certainty regarding the potential danger.
"It cannot be assumed that a specific danger of an accident exists," he said.
The suit to halt the restart of the reactor at the plant operated by Tohoku Electric Power Co. was made by residents from neighboring Ishinomaki City, who said the city and prefecture's evacuation plans in the case of a severe emergency were "flawed and impractical."
If restarted, the idle reactor would become the first in the northeastern area, which was struck by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, to do so. The devastating earthquake triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 following multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Seventeen residents filed the lawsuit, arguing that in the case of another nuclear disaster, residents beyond a 30-kilometer radius of the plant would be unable to evacuate for an extended time due to traffic congestion.
As such, they argued, residents would be at high risk of being exposed to radiation in the event of a disaster.
Following the ruling, Tohoku Electric said it would continue with plans to restart the reactor in February.
However, concerns remain rife among residents in the area. The spokesperson for the plaintiffs said he would likely seek to file an appeal after consulting with lawyers.
A team of South Korean government experts began a two-day tour of the Fukushima nuclear power plant on Tuesday to examine Japan's contentious plan to release its wastewater into the sea. Tens of thousands of South Koreans gathered in central Seoul on Saturday to voice their opposition to the plan.
(With input from Xinhua)