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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 09:20 GMT
Japan appeals against nuclear ruling
The plaintiffs in the Monju reactor case
Local residents have campaigned against the reactor
The Japanese Government has asked the Supreme Court in Tokyo to overturn a ruling which casts doubt on the future of a controversial nuclear reactor.

Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma said he could never accept Monday's high court ruling that operations at the troubled Monju reactor should remain suspended.

The $6bn fast-breeder reactor, which has been out of commission since a leak was discovered in 1995, is regarded by the government as essential to Japan's long-term energy needs.

But the high court judge in Nagoya in central Japan ruled that Monju's operating permit should not be reissued.

He said he had to take into account the danger of radiation escaping into the environment.

'Serious mistakes'

Monday's ruling came as a surprise to the government, which had already given approval for construction work to begin at the site.

Japanese nuclear accidents
1995 Monju: major sodium leak
July 1999 Tsuruga: internal radiation leak at 11,500 times the safety level
Sept 1999 Tokaimura: Japan's worst nuclear accident, killed two and injured 40

"The ruling departs from preceding judgments at the Supreme Court... and contains serious mistakes in the interpretation of the law," said Mr Hiranuma.

But people living near the controversial reactor welcomed Monday's decision.

Aileen Mioko Smith, an activist who has been campaigning on the issue for many years, said it was an "epoch-making decision".

She said it was a significant strike at "the whole raison d'etre" of the Japanese nuclear industry.

Nuclear needs

With few natural resources, Japan relies heavily on its 51 nuclear power plants to supply about a third of its electricity.

The government wants to raise that to 42% by the year 2010.

The reactor at Monju is central to that plan.

The government has already spent 780bn yen ($6.56bn) on the project, including 580bn yen to build the experimental fast-breeder reactor, which is designed to produce more nuclear fuel than it consumes.

But with public fears high since an accident at Tokaimura in 1999, the government faces many hurdles in its plans for nuclear growth.

See also:

13 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
16 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
12 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
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