An Otsu district court in Japan has ordered the closure of two nuclear reactors previously declared safe under strict post-Fukushima safety rules.
The order which brings the number of operating reactors in the country down to two, came a few days before the fifth anniversary of the atomic disaster.
Dozens of nuclear reactors were shut following the Fukushima, which has been tagged the worst nuclear accident in a generation.
According to AFP, the ruling is a blow to plans by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to bring back nuclear power.
The reactors to be closed are Kansai Electric’s No 3 and No 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant, about 215 miles (350km) west of Tokyo.
The No 4 reactor was taken offline last month due to an unexpected technical glitch days after it restarted, while the No 3 reactor is currently operating.
Kansai Electric said it would respect the “extremely regrettable” decision and shut down operations, but said it would appeal.
“This court order is not something the company can accept,” it said in a statement. Television footage showed plaintiffs and local residents cheering and holding banners after the ruling.
One person who was happy with the court’s ruling said: “I’m so happy and praise the court’s courage.”
The bid to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors has become entangled in a web of lawsuits amid fears about another Fukushima-style accident.
In December, another court sided with Kansai Electric by lifting a temporary injunction blocking the restart of the two reactors covered by Wednesday’s ruling.
The latest case was filed by residents in neighbouring Shiga prefecture, who argued that the reactors posed a risk to Lake Biwa, a key water source for the region.
An accident similar to Fukushima would contaminate the lake, they argued.
Two reactors in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima, operated by Kyushu Electric Power, restarted in August and October last year, ending the two-year hiatus in nuclear power generation.
A pair of reactors were briefly switched on again after the accident but were then closed down again.
Anti-nuclear sentiment still runs high in Japan and there was widespread opposition to restarts.
Abe and utility companies have been pushing to get reactors back in operation, as the disaster forced Japan to turn to pricey fossil fuels to plug an energy gap left by the shutdown of dozens of nuclear reactors.
Abe has argued that resuming nuclear power is key to Japan’s energy policy, but memories of Fukushima are still fresh for many.
Japan’s entire stable of reactors was shuttered in the aftermath of the disaster, when a huge undersea quake sent a tsunami smashing into the coast, swamping the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and sparking reactor meltdowns.
Official investigations have heaped blame on plant operator Tokyo Electric Power – three of its former executives are now facing a criminal trial – and the disaster has been labelled a “man-made” accident.
The country had in a swift proactive reaction replaced the previous arrangement where the industry ministry managed both the regulator and promoted nuclear power and set up an independent atomic watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority.