A Japanese court has rejected a request to revoke government approval for restarting nuclear reactors at the Sendai power plant in southwestern Japan. The request argued that the plant operator has not taken the necessary measures against possible volcanic eruptions in its surrounding areas.
The Fukuoka District Court on Monday handed down the ruling on a lawsuit filed by 33 residents over the nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The No.1 and No.2 reactors were brought back online after the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave its approval under new guidelines introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
The plaintiffs argued that the plant lacks measures to ensure its safety in the event of major volcanic eruptions.
The authority's risk assessment guidelines for volcanoes call for nuclear plant operators to assess the impact of volcanoes near their facilities.
In Monday's ruling, presiding judge Moriharu Kurasawa said experts may not have established the knowledge to precisely assess the likelihood of volcanic activities.
Kurasawa also said laws and regulations related to nuclear power do not require plant operators to take measures for every possible natural disaster.
He added that it is socially acceptable to take no action for a disaster that is beyond rational projections, unless the likelihood of such an event can be shown with certain evidence.
The judge said it is not irrational for operators not to take steps for disasters that are impossible to predict and seldom occur, even though their impact would be grave.
This is the first ruling in a lawsuit filed over government approvals of the operation of nuclear plants after the new regulations were introduced.
The head of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Yuichi Kaido, said the court ignored the risk of a catastrophic eruption even though many experts are warning of such an event.
Kaido said it is tantamount to tolerating a second Fukushima Daiichi accident, and that the plaintiffs will never allow that to happen. He indicated that the plaintiffs will appeal the ruling.