Court orders suspension of Japan nuclear reactor over safety concerns

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020   •   264

Tokyo – A Japanese court on Friday ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor at the Ikata plant in western Japan on safety grounds, revoking an earlier decision that had green lighted its operation.

The Hiroshima High Court said the operators of the plant Shikoku Electric and the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority underestimated the risk posed to residents by a possible eruption of the Aso volcano, located about 130 km (nearly 80 miles) from the Ikata plant, public broadcaster NHK reported.

In December 2017, the court had ordered the suspension of reactor no. 3 at the plant for the same reason, and became the first Japanese high court to question the new safety requirements implemented in the country in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

However, in September 2018, the court accepted the operator’s appeal because the risk of volcanic eruption was very low, thus allowing the company to restart operations in October of that year.

This time, the court took into account the allegations made by a group of citizens from Yamaguchi Prefecture – located adjacent to the plant – who again highlighted the risks arising from a possible eruption of Mount Aso.

Reactor no. 3 at the Ikata plant was one of the few in the country that had received permission to operate under post-Fukushima regulations, although it was temporarily shut down on account of an inspection by the operator.

Shikoku Electric said it would appeal against the court’s decision that has dealt another legal setback to the plans of the Japanese operators and the government to gradually reactivate the reactors that meet the new safety requirements.

The Fukushima disaster triggered a massive review operation of all the nuclear plants and set off new and stricter security regulations in Japan.

Tokyo estimates 20 to 22 percent of electricity in the country will be generated from atomic plants by 2030, slightly lower than the 30 percent before the 2011 tragedy, the worst nuclear accidents after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Radioactive emissions and spills from the Fukushima disaster left around 110,000 people displaced and has severely affected agriculture, livestock, and fishing in the region.

The disaster was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, leaving over 15,000 people dead and more than 3,000 others missing. EFE-EPA

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Coronavirus turns Japan business mood negative for first time in 7 years

UNTV News   •   April 3, 2020

Japanese manufacturers turned pessimistic for the first time in seven years in the three months to March, the central bank’s “tankan” survey showed on Wednesday (April 1), as the coronavirus pandemic pushed the economy closer to recession.

Non-manufacturers’ sentiment also worsened to levels not seen in seven years as travel bans, event cancellations and social distancing policies hurt consumption, clouding an already darkening outlook for the economy. The data underscores the challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces in stopping the pandemic wiping out the benefits his “Abenomics” stimulus policies have brought to the economy.

The headline index measuring big manufacturers’ sentiment worsened to minus 8 in March from zero in December, the survey showed, compared with a median market forecast of minus 10. It was the first time in seven years the big manufacturers’ index turned negative.

The pandemic has hit an economy that had already suffered the fastest contraction in 5-1/2 years in the December quarter due to last year’s sales tax hike and the U.S.-China trade war. (Reuters)

(Production: Kohei Miyazaki, Hideto Sakai, Akiko Okamoto)

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief not considering changing plans for Games

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori said on Wednesday (March 11) his team was not considering changing plans for the Games and that the board member who had suggested a delay because of the coronavirus had apologised.

Earlier, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board told Reuters that a delay of one or two years would be the “most feasible” option if the Olympics could not be held this summer.

“At the moment, we are not thinking about changing plans or postponing the Games,” Mori told reporters at a hastily arranged media briefing.

He also added that some venues wouldn’t necessarily be available for use if the Olympics were delayed, as per Haruyuki Takahashi’s, one of more than two dozen members of the Tokyo 2020 executive board, earlier suggestion.

Mori added that he left hospital on Wednesday to make the announcement but the 82-year-old former Japanese Prime Minister did not say why he had been hospitalised.

Organisers have been pushing a consistent message that the Games would not be cancelled or postponed but sponsors who have pumped in billions of dollars have grown increasingly nervous about how the coronavirus outbreak will impact the event.

Experts say a one-year postponement to the same time next year would pose major logistical problems but was doable for broadcasters because it fits into their generally open summer schedule.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 116,000 people and killed more than 4,000 around the world since it surfaced in China late last year. (Reuters)

(Production: Jack Tarrant, Shiori Ozawa)

Japan says North Korea’s missile launch a threat to Japan and the region

UNTV News   •   March 9, 2020

Japan’s main government spokesperson said the latest projectile launch by North Korea “threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region” on Monday (March 9).

Speaking at a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said the multiple projectiles appeared to be ballistic missiles and landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea launched multiple short-range projectiles into the sea on Monday as part of ongoing firing drills, a week after it resumed missile tests following a three-month break, South Korea’s military said.

Suga added that Pyongyang’s repeated ballistic missile launches are a “serious issue for the international community”.

(Production: Hideto Sakai)

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