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The Problems With Takahama

Takahama unit 3 is the most recent nuclear reactor to attempt a restart in Japan. It is also one of the more controversial. The reactor restart had been blocked by the courts for being unsafe until another judge overturned that decision. On December 25th 157 fuel assemblies including 24 MOX  assemblies were loaded into the reactor. The power company plans to restart the reactor by the end of January.

The impact of MOX on the meltdown and explosion of unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi is still not understood yet Japanese authorities allowed this unit to be loaded with this controversial plutonium fuel.

The plan to restart reactors in this area of Fukui prefecture has raised concerns about the ability to evacuate and respond to a nuclear disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people would be in the evacuation zones across multiple prefectures. Lake Biwa, a major source of fresh water in Japan is also within the high risk zone.

The disaster response plan includes transporting needed equipment by plane from Tokyo to an airbase in the region then flown by helicopter or taken by boat to the nuclear plant. This is heavily dependent on good weather and no impact such as a tsunami on the staging locations or at the plant.

Any evacuation would also be heavily dependent on the weather. Roads in the mountainous region could be blocked by weather related issues. Earthquakes could also take out critical roads out of the area. There is also the potential for roads to become blocked as people flee due to the limited roads in the area. The government fall back plan in this case would be to try to evacuate people by boat. This is dependent on people being able to reach the port and the port being usable. Another fall back plan included trying to evacuate people by helicopter. This is also dependent on weather and other factors. Trying to evacuate a significant portion of the population by helicopter could take days during the time period that could be the worst for potential radiation exposures.



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