The response from the government picked volcano expert wasn’t kind. He made it very clear that the Sendai nuclear reactors are at risk from a number of nearby volcanoes and that the ideas concocted by the plant owners to combat a possible eruption are pure fantasy.
Toshitsugu Fujii, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo is the head of Japan’s panel on volcano risk. He is also a member of the NRA’s hastily assembled volcano panel, something done after they had already declared Sendai to be safe for restart. He outlined a number of risks that could impact not just nuclear plants near volcanos but possibly other plants and infrastructure in Japan:
1.”A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanoes surrounding the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could not only hit the reactors, but also cause a nationwide disaster”
2. “Studies have shown that pyroclastic flow from an eruption 90,000 years ago at one of the volcanoes near the Sendai plant reached as far as 145 km (90 miles) away”
3. “a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that is part of the larger Aira cauldron, could easily hit the nuclear plant, which is only 40 km (25 miles) away.”
The smartest guy in the room just showed how NRA and the current administration have their heads in the ash when they dismissed volcano risk as being non existent or too rare to be a risk to Sendai or other nuclear plants.
He went on to say that the NRA’s claim that they could predict the possibility to predict an eruption over 30-40 years as being impossible. According to Fujii, volcano activity can only be predicted in hours or days, not years. Leading up to the eruption at Mt. St. Helens there was only a two month hint that something might be going on.
Kyushu power has claimed they would remove all fuel from the nuclear plant site if there was a clear sign of an impending eruption. Even in the case of unit 4 at Fukushima Daiichi, it has taken years to remove most of the fuel from one reactor unit. Most experts have agreed that this plan is completely impossible to ever achieve with the current volcano warning ability. It also fails to take into account the number of eruptions that have happened with little or no warning.
Kyushu also offered up this fantastical claim:
“Kyushu Electric Power Co., which runs the Sendai plant, promised steps to ensure worker access in up to 15 cm (6 inches) of ash and a monitoring system to detect changes in volcanic activity.”
Fujii backs up our previous assertion that you can not operate machinery in an ash fall.
“Fujii said 10 cm (4 inches) of ash will render any vehicle except tanks virtually inoperable. Power lines would be cut by the weight of the ash, causing blackouts that could shut reactor cooling systems.”
Such an ash fall could also make it impossible for workers to be outside for any length of time without difficulty.
Fujji quite clearly slammed the government restart decision to be purely political and not based on science. This all becomes even worse when combined with what Fujii thinks has happened due to the 3-11 massive earthquake in 2011. The quake may have kicked off decades of increased volcanic activity.
“The 2011 quake convulsed all of underground Japan quite sharply, and due to that influence Japan’s volcanoes may also become much more active,” Fujii told reporters. “It has been much too quiet here over the last century, so we can reasonably expect that there will be a number of large eruptions in the near future.”
He also explained that Japan has not put enough funding into volcano research to accurately understand the behavior of all of the volcanoes in Japan. At the same time Fujii made his dire statements the current administration in Japan began urging nuclear power plant owners to come forward and announce that they would scrap reactors that they don’t plan to or that would not pass safety checks. Their hope was if older reactors were declared to be retired it might somehow sway the public to accept restarting newer reactors like Sendai.
Sendai would not potentially be restarted until 2015 at the earliest. Any reactor that hopes to apply to restart needs to have their application in by July of 2015. So the fate of Japan’s nuclear industry could be decided within that time frame.
image credit | warner brothers
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