National

Sendai nuclear evacuation plans get Tokyo's nod despite Kagoshima misgivings

Kyodo

The central government said Friday it “approves” of evacuation plans drawn up by local authorities near a nuclear plant that could become the first in the country to go back online, as officials attempt to ease persistent fears about the effectiveness of the plans.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government meeting on nuclear disaster prevention that the evacuation plans for residents near the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture are “concrete and reasonable.”

The central government initially said the plans should be drawn up and evaluated by local municipalities. It then decided to increase its involvement in the matter to dispel residents’ doubts in the wake of the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

However, Abe’s comments are seen as a formality, since the evacuation plans aren’t subject to screening by the new independent Nuclear Regulation Authority — unlike in other countries, such as the United States. In the meantime, some of the details in the plans remain up in the air, leaving residents in doubt.

Experts and critics have pointed out what they say are flaws in the plans, such as a lack of measures to support the elderly and hospital patients, who would need the most support in fleeing an emergency.

On Wednesday, two reactors at the Sendai plant became the first in the nation to meet the tighter safety standards imposed after the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011. The government said it will promote restarts for idled reactors declared safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Of the nation’s 48 commercial reactors, all of which are currently offline, the two units at the Sendai plant, run Kyushu Electric Power Co., are the closest to being restarted.

However, local consent is considered needed before a restart can proceed.

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