More answers about Fukushima disaster needed before reactor restarts, Niigata governor says

AP

Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said Japan should not restart any nuclear plants until the cause of the Fukushima meltdowns is fully understood and nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major disaster.

Izumida, whose prefecture is home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, said on Wednesday that regulators look at equipment but don’t evaluate local evacuation plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart two reactors in Kagoshima Prefecture that last month were the first to be approved under stricter safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima disaster started. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has called the new standard one of the world’s highest.

Abe has said he will restart all reactors deemed safe, reversing the previous government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power.

Regulators are inspecting 18 other reactors, including two in Niigata operated by Tepco, which runs the Fukushima plant that experienced three meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. All 48 workable Japanese reactors are currently offline.

The nuclear authority’s approval of the two Sendai reactors in Kagoshima paves the way for their restart within few months, considered a big boost for Japan’s nuclear industry.

Its operator, Kyushu Electric Power Co., however, still faces an on-site operational inspection and must obtain the consent of local authorities. Residents are mainly concerned about five cauldron volcanos in the region, though regulators rule out a catastrophic eruption before the end of the reactors’ functional lifespan of 30 years. Kagoshima’s governor and town officials have generally welcomed a Sendai restart.

Izumida declined to comment on another prefecture’s decision, but he said Tepco was responsible for the Fukushima crisis and has no qualifications to resume operating a nuclear plant in his region without fully clarifying unanswered questions about the disaster.

Resuming operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is crucial to Tepco, which is indebted and nationalized due to the astronomical cost of cleaning up Fukushima and compensating affected residents. But the safety inspection has been delayed due to a prolonged investigation into active seismic faults inside the compound, which experts say may affect safety.

Ensuring protection of nearby residents from radiation exposure as part of a multilayer safety measure is an international standard, but still not compulsory to pass safety inspection in Japan. Towns as far as 30 km from the plant, an expansion from the 20 km before the crisis, are now required to compile evacuation plans, but many have not. In some prefectures, the drills exposed that evacuating all residents from the no-go zones would take days. Niigata compiled its evacuation plan in June and is set to test it next month.

“Protecting the residents’ lives and safety is the most important task for me as governor,” Izumida told reporters in Tokyo. “I don’t even want to discuss a restart.”

  • rossdorn

    “…nearby communities have emergency plans that can effectively respond to another major disaster.”

    Does this mean Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has done nothing about such plans in the past three years????

  • Eagle

    More essential and smart questions needed, if there are brave volunteers or professionals who have the courage to openly ask them.

    • rossdorn

      If you had been to any of the demonstartions in Tokyo, you would know, that there are quite a lot of such people… even ex Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked these questions.
      I have a video of a european TV station, where he tells the story about the small group of people called the “Nuclear Village”, who run the country. Ask the Japan TImes,. why they never report about this….
      There is no media that will publicly ask these questions… and most of all, Japan is not inhabited by a people that would ever really question authority.

      • Eagle

        Thanks for your reply, well I know many of those questions you have mentioned. Not what I thought of. The questions I thought of should be asked by the police and the prosecution. And more, much more. No one has asked them. And as you say; as no media will ask those questions publicly I wouldn’t bring them here either. But those questions should be asked and the answers should go public.
        But as you see in another JT thread we just learned that the cabinet improved the state secrecy law guidelines instead of giving answers.

      • rossdorn

        “The questions I thought of should be asked by the police and the prosecution.”

        That would not be in line with japanese tradition and culture…

        “…state secrecy law guidelines…” are.

        Is it not truly funny that the people here keep on believing they live in a democracy? You know, like the americans, with their “for the people, by the people”?

      • Roger London

        Its all about “Control” (of the population/s).

        It can be a package or a burden; and its only vaguely related to any actual evolving democracy.

        Undercurrents of war and all that.

  • Starviking

    The cause of the Daiichi meltdowns are understood: a massive tsunami causing massive damage to the plant and knocking out emergency power.

    And as rossdorn pointed out, why doesn’t the governor do some work on evacuation plans?

    “Protecting the residents’ lives and safety is the most important task for me as governor. I don’t even want to discuss a restart.”

    Securing his re-election more like!

  • Roger London

    Why should the local government or local taxpayer pay for that additional `emergency plan`? Tepco should; or central government. They get the Profits and TAX. It would be THEIR Radiation, not the local governments.

    Not the sharpest tool?

    Besides; did you not stop to think how much geothermal energy there is under Japan?

    Will this the Japan times ban this comment for being logical?

    • Starviking

      That is sadly the consequence when municipalities are run like personal fiefdoms – they are very defensive of their perogatives, don’t want others butting in unless they get endless consults on the matter. End result – municipalities have to draw up their own evacuation plans without much access to expertise. Add to that the designed-in incompetence: shifting people around every few years, inability to reason with citizen activists – and you get things like the landslides in Osaka recently. Decades of warnings, nothing much done.

      • Roger London

        I did 25+ years in engineering and building in the UK and I came up with
        a partial solution to the landslides (how [new] houses should be
        constructed in the areas affected) after the landslides a couple of
        years ago [but its hard to get people to be bothered beyond the
        superficial]).
        It would work to save lives; but it means a re-build of most houses near the danger areas. El costo.
        In
        the same way as only building on land 50ft above seal level on the East
        coast Earthquake Tsunami zones would be wise but cost too much to
        change it all in a short time; people prefer to gamble with their lives.
        So; no tears required for any adults who get killed.

        And to think the Japan Times banned my comments for life for posting similar information a few years ago under a different account.