Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Japanese court dismisses appeal to stop nuclear project


A Japanese high court yesterday rejected an appeal by 77 residents demanding that the government revoke a decision to allow construction of a uranium enrichment plant in northern Japan, a court officials said.

The Sendai High Court upheld a lower court ruling and dismissed the appeal, said court spokesman Hiroki Kadowaki, who declined to provide any details of the ruling.

The government gave Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd a green light to operate the plant in Rokkasho village in Aomori prefecture in 1988, but residents filed a suit in 1989 saying the plant could pose dangers during strong earthquakes and other disasters.

The Aomori District Court in 2002 dismissed the case, and the residents appealed.

Yesterday, high court Judge Hiroshi Ohashi supported the earlier ruling that the government had conducted appropriate safety checks and there was no need to revoke the approval for the project, Kyodo News agency reported.

The plant is one of several facilities at the center of Japan's ambitions to use experimental fast breeder reactors to boost the country's self sufficiency in energy. The residents are also demanding that the government revoke its approval of other Rokkasho plants in separate lawsuits that are still pending.

Japan Nuclear Fuel started operating the uranium enrichment plant and two radioactive waste processing facilities in the 1990s, with the reprocessing plant due for completion next year.

The ¥2.19 trillion (US$19.7 billion) Rokkasho plant, which began operating in the early 1990s as a nuclear fuel storage site, is also a planned site to burn reprocessed nuclear fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX.

The reprocessing plant started a test-run in late March following delays by a radioactive water leak and public opposition.

The government has said it hopes to convert as many as 18 electricity-generating reactors to use MOX produced at Rokkasho as part of the country's transition to fast-breeder reactors.

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