Kyoto governor demands reactor safety guarantee

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Opposition in the Kansai region to restarting reactors 3 and 4 at the nuclear plant in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, continued to build Thursday, with Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada telling the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that he isn’t convinced of their safety.

“I can’t concede to their restart at present. Not only are the recently completed stress tests only the first stage, but, for the next stage, we need a statement of guarantee for the comprehensive safety of the reactors,” Yamada said.

His remarks came as the central government, through NISA, is attempting to explain safety measures already taken and convince Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, which border Fukui, to agree to the reactors’ restart. Political obstacles are mounting in both prefectures.

Last week, the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly called on the central government to set up new safety standards, calling the stress tests merely a paper test and an insufficient guarantee that the Oi plant can operate safely.

“The lessons of Fukushima, including the cause of the accident, must be taken into account,” the assembly said.

Neither the central government nor Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates the Oi reactors, consider surrounding prefectures to be part of the local community that must be consulted, but nearly 1.3 million people reside in municipalities that lie within 30 km of the Oi plant, which means they must have evacuation plans.

Antinuclear activists warn that the possibility of an earthquake damaging the Oi plant is high because it lies only about 2 km from a fault line. In an emergency, there could be a mass evacuation from Fukui down through Shiga and Kyoto prefectures to ports and airports in Osaka, necessitating disaster response measures throughout the Kansai region.

“The fact that neither Tokyo nor Kepco recognizes Kyoto as part of the ‘local community’ is strange. Current disaster response and evacuation plans are not sufficient,” said Atsuko Nishimura, a Kyoto-based antinuclear activist.

NISA officials also met with Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada on Thursday afternoon, but Kada’s opposition to the restart of the plant is even stronger than Yamada’s.

JAXA radiation camera

kyodo

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has developed a new camera that can capture images of radioactive contamination, JAXA said Thursday.

The super-wide Compton camera works by capturing gamma rays emitted by radioactive substances, such as cesium, and creates a wide range of pictures showing radioactive contamination.

JAXA said it developed the camera for use with the country’s next-generation X-ray astronomy satellite and improved its radiation detection sensor for ground use.

When images taken by the new camera are overlaid on those taken by an ordinary digital camera, the intensity of radioactive substances can be seen via color-coding, scientists said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has used a similar imaging system in dealing with the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. But JAXA’s new camera has a 180-degree viewing angle that allows it to measure a wider area and gauge the distribution of radioactive substances more precisely, they said.