Japanese court halts restart of two N-reactors as locals raise safety issues

A Japanese court has blocked the restarting of two nuclear reactors in the western city of Takahama, after local people petitioned the court in Fukui prefecture raising safety concerns.

The plant had already obtained approval from the country's nuclear watchdog and the court order comes as a big blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to return to atomic energy four years after the Fukushima disaster.

Locals had petitioned the court in Fukui prefecture, where Takahama is located, to intervene, saying it would not withstand a strong earthquake.

They had sought an injunction against the No 3 and 4 reactors at Takahama, arguing that operator and the regulator have not factored in the risks of an earthquake and that the plant has failed to meet tougher safety standards and lacked credible evacuation programme.

This is the second court ruling in less than a year against reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, which was the country's biggest nuclear power utility before Fukushima.

The two Kansai reactors have met basic safety regulations set by Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) and were expected to be restarted sometime this year.

Kansai Electric said it would appeal the decision, but it could mean months, even years of delays and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for the utility.

A government spokesman said there would be no change in policy.

"There is no change to the government position to respect the NRA's decision and continue restarting plants," Yoshihide Suga told reporters.