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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Japan court backs nuclear plant
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Protesters at the Rokkasho plant
Locals worry about the effects of a quake on the plant
A legal challenge brought by Japanese people living near a uranium enrichment plant in an attempt to get it shut down has failed.

Locals living near the plant in Rokkasho claimed the government carried out inadequate safety checks before giving the plant a licence.

But a high court judge has ruled that an earlier decision by a lower court, rejecting their claims, should stand.

Fifty-two nuclear power plants supply more than a third of Japan's energy.

The facility at Rokkasho, northern Japan, was one of the first commercially operated plants in the country to produce enriched uranium for nuclear power generation. It started operating 14 years ago.

This lawsuit was first filed three years before the facility opened. People living nearby complained the government should not have given it a safety licence.

They said it was vulnerable to large earthquakes or to plane crashes.

The legal arguments have continued ever since. Most recently the courts were told that the plant was designed to withstand tremors with a seismic intensity of five or more, but it was possible that earthquakes far greater could occur near the facility.

A judge however ruled that the government's safety examination had been flawless.

His decision has now been upheld by the higher court and the residents' efforts to have the plant closed rejected.

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