Japanese geologist warns of coming tsunami to hit Taiwan

Kyodo

A Japanese geologist said Tuesday that a massive earthquake-generated tsunami originating in Japan and capable of affecting Taiwan is likely to occur every 1,000 years, a prediction likely to worry antinuclear activists who have been campaigning for the abolition of nuclear energy on the earthquake-prone island.

Yoshinobu Tsuji of the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute said in Taipei that Taiwan has very few recorded tsunami but they can be categorized into two kinds.

The first covers tsunami caused by earthquakes originating off the island’s northeastern coast. The last recorded tsunami of this kind occurred in 1867.

The second refers to those triggered by earthquakes with epicenters in Japan’s Yaeyama Islands, located in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture.

Tsuji’s research suggested that tsunami originating in the Yaeyama Islands occur every 1,000 years. As the last earthquake-generated tsunami originating there was recorded in 1771, the next big one is likely to happen in 2771.

Tsuji said the 1771 tsunami created 4- to 30-meter high waves crashing against the shoreline of Ishigaki Island in the Yaeyama Island group.

While there is no record of the 1771 tsunami in Taiwan, Tsuji said he suspected the waves were as high as 5 to 10 meters when they hit the northeastern coast of Taiwan, which is about 150 km away from the epicenter.

Tsuji was one of two Japanese experts invited by a Taiwanese anti-nuclear group to talk about the safety of nuclear energy.

Satoshi Sato, vice president of Master Power Associates Co., said tsunami are caused not only by earthquakes, but also by landslides and volcanic eruptions.

The builder of a sound nuclear power plant must take them all into consideration on top of other factors such as typhoons, the geological setting of the plant and the population of the town where the plant is situated.

Taiwan has three operating nuclear power stations — two in the north and one in the south. All have operated safely for many years while providing nearly 20 percent of the island’s electricity.

Many Taiwanese have called for construction of the fourth facility to be suspended, following a string of construction delays and management blunders.

Concerns about the safety of nuclear power flared up again in light of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that started on March 11, 2011.

Apart from apprehension over the growing stockpile of nuclear waste, critics say adding a new nuclear power facility in earthquake-prone Taiwan’s heavily populated north will only make matters worse.