March 19, 2018 / 7:30 AM / 3 months ago

Japan court rejects lawsuit against construction of nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - A court in northern Japan on Monday rejected a lawsuit to halt construction of a nuclear plant, said the company building the facility, Electric Power Development Co (J-Power).

Plaintiffs hold banners reading 'Injurious decision' after the Hakodate District Court rejected a lawsuit to halt construction of Electric Power Development Co (J-Power)'s Ohama nuclear plant in front of the court in Hakodate on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, in this photo taken by Kyodo March 19, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

The ruling by the Hakodate District Court in Hokkaido prefecture on the Ohma plant will be welcomed by many utilities as they push for a return to nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, despite strong opposition from chunks of the public.

More than 1,100 residents in Hokkaido, among others, had filed the lawsuit in 2010 to prevent Ohma from starting. The construction of the 1,383-megawatt plant, which will use mixed oxide fuel, a blend of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel, started in 2008, but work was suspended after Fukushima in 2011.

Building resumed in 2012, but has been delayed as the company has to meet new safety requirements imposed after the 2011 disaster, a company spokesman said. The station is about 38-percent complete, he said.

J-Power in 2016 pushed back the planned start of operation by two years to 2024/25.

“We are doing all we can for the start of operations in the 2024/25 business year,” the spokesman added.

The ruling marks the latest judgment on atomic power in the country, with critics of nuclear energy having more success in some other cases.

A high court in western Japan sided with residents last December to prevent the restart of a nuclear plant idled for scheduled maintenance, although lower court decisions have usually been turned down on appeal.

Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Joseph Radford

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