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Japanese Power Plant That Could Cause Catastrophe Wants to Reopen

Japanese Power Plant That Could Cause Catastrophe Wants to Reopen

The entire world was riveted by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, which revealed the fragility of nuclear power and the potentially huge risks of poorly-situated nuclear plants. In response to the event, the Japanese government ordered all reactors closed while it assessed risks, with facilities being required to implement safety upgrades and undergo inspection before they can reopen. To date, 17 plants have applied for inspections so they can restart, but none have opened yet. Among them is the Hamaoka plant in Shinzuoka Prefecture.

Chubu Electric, the plant’s operator, is defying a government order, angering citizens, and attracting considerable argument in Japan with its decision to request an evaluation to determine if the plant can be reopened. Nuclear power in general is highly controversial in Japan in the wake of Fukushima Daiichi, with some Japanese residents wondering whether the country should be using this power source at all, given the dangers — even staunch advocates for the safety and efficiency of nuclear power have to admit that in an earthquake and tsunami-prone region of the Earth, there are some special risks.

Particularly at Hamaoka, which sits almost precisely on a location where a major earthquake is predicted to strike. The Nankai Trough megaquake, as it’s known, would be devastating, and the Hamaoka facility would be almost directly in its way. An accident at the facility could force the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, something that would be challenging to do in the midst of an ongoing natural disaster, and it would also disrupt a number of important roads and transit hubs in Japan, effectively creating a ripple across the country as food, goods and services would be delayed by road closures and other blocks. To put it in perspective, more than ten times as many people live within close range of Hamaoka as did within Fukushima.

If something happened at Hamaoka, it could be a disaster for Japan — which is why the government ordered the plant closed in 2011, after multiple warnings (some preceding the infamous earthquake and tsunami of 2011). It felt the risks were too great, and that closure of the plant was a better choice for the health and safety of the surrounding region. Chubu Electric complied, along with other operators in the process of powering down to handle safety upgrades, but now, three years later, they’re eager to see Hamaoka reopened.

In the intervening years, they’ve installed seawalls and other safety measures designed to protect the three remaining functional reactors at Hamaoka (two more have been decommissioned). Restarting the plot would boost the amount of energy Chubu Electric can generate, but at what cost? Local residents argue that they don’t want nuclear power in their backyard, an attitude that’s common in a nuclear-shy nation. Politicians and other public officials would need to approve any restart plans, and they would have the final say. Many of them are already stating that they’re reluctant to authorize a restart of the plant, and for some, keeping the plant closed been a component of campaign promises, which would make it hard to go back on their word.

What happens with Hamaoka may determine the nuclear future of Japan — and some are worried that it could spell doom for the country in the event of a major natural disaster.

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The iconic cooling towers of the TVA, a familiar symbol of nuclear power. Photo credit: TVA Web Team.

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92 comments

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1:07PM PDT on Apr 26, 2014

Japanese should be slapped down and all their goods boycotted. They are arrogant ***** who rape the oceans, kill dolphins and whales while thumbing their nose at the world. Japan like most Asian nations today, have no culture but greed and are a cancer on the earth.

2:19AM PST on Mar 1, 2014

Not good at all.

8:30PM PST on Feb 23, 2014

ty

3:33AM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Hopefully nuclear energy will be changed one day by fusion. But we people are still the most to blame, we overload ourselves in comfort, (overlighting in the night, overequipped with electronical devices; not be able to live in simplicity) , we created a big dependancy on reliable energy resources. I am not fan of nuclear energy... but it would be much easier to ban it if we also would modify our electricql comfort zone, and install small scale alternative energy resources, no matter if there is governemental funding.

10:12PM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Nuclear has had its time. Now it needs to be shut down and make room for renewables. The only thing coming from nuclear now is trouble. The first reactor is still contaminating the world; we don't need another one.

2:30PM PST on Feb 22, 2014

very bizarre!

11:35AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Nuclear power produces 2% of the planet's electrical needs. Why do we continue to build these expensive and government subsidized monstrosities? To produce weapons grade plutonium for bombs. Note what Einstein said about nuclear power plants; "It's a helluva way to boil water."

8:47AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Mike k.,
Sorry for being too technical. I was under the impression that you were more advanced scientifically. My mistake. I will leave you to your arts and crafts.

8:13AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Dan b We have no safe place to store dangerous nuclear waste for the next 250,000 years. Hasn't the Fukishima disaster been enough? Radioactive water has leaked and contaminated the Pacific ocean. In addition, to being expensive, nuclear power plants use alot of precious water. We can build wind farms, and solar power plants in 18 to 24 months that produce zero waste which must be stored. It's time to get rid of dangerous expensive nuclear power, and replace it with clean renewable energy like solar, geothermal, and wind power.

7:41AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Dan b. "Mike k.,
While it is true that earthquakes can cause tsunamis thousands of miles away, they do not reach thousands of miles inland."

That's it? You want to build a nuclear waste pile that won't lose its radioactivity for 250,000 years, will melt down if it gets wet, and all you can come up with is: "We'll build them all thousand of miles from the coast?"

Like I said before about your fake argument, Dan b: "Coo coo, coo coo, coo coo."

Go back to your professional finger painting career, Dan b. You're not cutting it as a nuclear fission power plant troll.

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