Chizuko Ueno’s Blog No. 86: Fukui District Court gives provisional disposition banning restart of nuclear power plant

Some happy news, which we haven’t had in a long time. Fukui District Court has given a provisional disposition banning the restart of the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant. Fellow WAN members and Suruga-shi City Councillor Harumi Kondaichi broke into smiles on news footage. The representative and deputy representative for the plaintiffs were both women. Attorneys Hiroyuki Kawai and Yuichi Kaido were seen among members of the defense. I actually participated as a plaintiff, but since I was not residing within a 100-kilometre radius of the power plant, I was seen as not at risk of suffering harm and determined ineligible as a plaintiff. As a result, nine members remained on the plaintiffs’ side.

The ruling was made by Justice Hideaki Higuchi, the same judge who acknowledged the request to block the restart of the Oi Nuclear Power Plant. This ruling was a bolder step up from the previous one. He most likely studied intensively on nuclear reactors during this time. This will likely be a ruling that will go down in history.

I feel that judges must feel isolated. They probably cannot debate over topics with colleagues or persons related to the field, or ask them for advice. If they did, they would likely be immediately subjected to influences and pressure from all sides. As a judge, he would probably be wary of the situation in the judicial sector as well. Mr. Hideaki Higuchi has apparently just been transferred to Nagoya Family Court starting this April.  Prior to that, a petition to challenge the judge, made by Kansai Electric, was rejected. Mr. Higuchi’s simultaneous post at Fukui Regional Court had been acknowledged despite his transfer. If the petition to challenge had gotten through, or if he had been taken off the case as a result of his transfer… it would have been adequate reason to be suspicious of political pressure coming from somewhere. At the ruling to stop the restart of the Oi Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Higuchi said, “The safety of human lives cannot be measured on the same scale as business profits”. Again, when making the provisional disposition to stop the restart of the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Higuchi clearly declared that “the standards of the Nuclear Regulation Authority are not reasonable.” Justice Higuchi, your name will be marked in history.

The head of the committee, Tanaka, has himself acknowledged that the new standards set out by the Nuclear Regulation Authority are not absolutely safe – that a reactor cannot be declared safe just because it has met the standard. The Nuclear Regulation Authority may be the one to decide if a reactor meets the standard or not, but politics is what decides whether or not the reactor will be restarted based on those results. And we voters are the ones who decide whether or not to accept that decision.

Here is an example of the standards of the Nuclear Regulation Authority being “not reasonable”, as pointed out by the judge: the standards stipulate that an earthquake-proof building should be constructed in preparation for disasters; however – perhaps in consideration of the wallets of electric power companies – there is a grace period for the construction. (I didn’t know that! This must be why these standards are said to be “lenient.”) The Nuclear Regulation Authority sets standards in place, but still gives approval ratings even if reactors do not meet those standards. As Justice Higuchi said, “Nature does not wait for the grace period to pass,” and that is the truth.

I am sure there are many people involved in the judicial sector who are deeply disappointed that the courts were accomplices in the policy to promote nuclear power. The involvement of the courts is also pointed out in Joachim Radkau’s “A Short History of the Anti-Nuclear Movement in Germany”.

“The persistence and success of Germany’s anti-nuclear movement can be explained not only by the internal structure of the protest demonstrations, but also by interactions between citizens’ protests, the media, politics, government administration, the courts, and science.” (Joachim Radkau, “A Short History of the Anti-Nuclear Movement in Germany.” Misuzu Shobo, 2012.)

He claims that what Germany has and Japan doesn’t is this interaction between the various actors.

Eiji Oguma’s book, “Those Who Stop the Nuclear Plants” (Bungeishunju, 2013) points out the following: “In Japan, ‘going nuclear-power-free’ has already been realized.” Not only that – “Japan has done what no other movement in the world has been able to do before, which was to dominate the government district over a long-term period through the use of non-violent direct action. As a result, the people changed the energy policy of the party in power [at the time].

“The people are still too unaccustomed to their own accomplishment to acknowledge this miracle as a miracle. They do not yet realize the depth of possibility hidden within it.”

Indeed, all fifty-four reactors currently in Japan have been stopped, and the reason why it is taking so long to restart the reactors is because the citizens, using all manner of methods, including judicial means, are putting a “hold” on the process, and the administration cannot ignore this.

Lately I feel that the courts are more sensitive to changes of the times than the legislature and administration. If this is one of the results of judicial reform, then I welcome it. The legislature has finally begun to take action regarding discrimination against extramarital children following a ruling that it was unconstitutional. It would probably turn out the same way for the lawsuit for married couples to have different surnames. The judicature is more closely aligned with the perceptions of the citizens in terms of going nuclear-power-free. Until now, the judicature has always been thought of as the “hound” of the government. It seems as if the time has come for the judicature to emphasize its independence.

Original article in Japanese

Translated by Rieko Shimizu and adapted by Naoko Hirose

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