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Japan court rejects move to halt Kyushu Electric reactors

Tokyo

KYUSHU Electric Power Co can continue operating its Genkai reactors after a Japan high court rejected a claim by a citizens group that said the utility had insufficient measures to protect the nuclear plants from natural disasters.

Despite the favourable ruling for the utility, Japan's nuclear sector is in the spotlight as regulators mull stricter safety standards that could boost costs and impact operations. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said on Monday it may ask utilities to reassess earthquake risks, although it hasn't decided whether it will be necessary for operators to shut reactors as part of that process.

The NRA surprised generators in April when it refused to extend deadlines for the construction of emergency facilities for reactors and said plants would be shut if construction isn't finished on time. Opposition from local governments and temporary injunctions from courts have slowed restarts of Japan's atomic fleet after the 2011 Fukushima disaster that forced local utilities to halt operations for safety assessments.

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Kyushu's Genkai reactors meet the safety standards set by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, and the standard is appropriate to ensure the safety of the reactors, the Fukuoka High Court said in a statement on Wednesday.

The total cost of bringing Japanese nuclear plants into compliance with the nation's safety standards has ballooned to an estimated 4.8 trillion yen (S$60 billion), according to a survey of domestic utilities by the Nikkei newspaper.

Nuclear generation accounted for 5 per cent of Japan's overall power resources in 2018, while gas and coal represented 36 per cent and 32 per cent respectively, according to Renewable Energy Institute. BLOOMBERG