With today’s draft decision to approve the safety measures of two currently closed nuclear reactors, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is ignoring public concerns and the major nuclear risks in the Kansai region.
The decision to give backing to two reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant puts millions of people at risk. Any severe accident at Takahama would be devastating for Kansai’s people and economy – there are no effective emergency plans existing that could protect the people in the region from radiation exposure.
But Kansai Electric Power Co is keen to restart its reactors and the regulator is doing all it can to help them.
The thing is, KEPCO’s reactors have been offline for years which shows that they are completely unnecessary for Japan’s energy future.
The thirty-year-old Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui prefecture have been shut down for 34 and 41 months respectively. Seven of KEPCO’s eleven reactors are nearly or over 40 years old with decisions on the horizon on whether they should be closed permanently.
The Shiga Prefectural Government undertook risk analyses on nuclear accidents at KEPCO’S Ohi plant near Takahama in November 2011. They showed that the neighbouring Kyoto prefecture would be severely contaminated in the event of an accident. The area includes Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest sea and the source of drinking water for 15 million people.
This decision doesn’t mean the Takahama reactors will be restarting immediately, however. The NRA’s draft decision is merely the start of a multi-step process that will reach far into 2015.
The next step will be a month-long consultation to collect public comments on the NRA’s draft decision. Also, the NRA still needs to review tens of thousands of documents from KEPCO as there are many outstanding safety issues.
One of them, the risk of an earthquake, is the main point of a legal injunction brought by citizens in the region. Another is the highly dangerous plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel which will be installed at the Takahama reactors. Scientists, citizens groups and politicians have long opposed its use.
There is both public and political resistance against the restart of the two Takahama reactors. It comes from within the Kansai region as well as the three prefectures neighbouring Fukui.
The governor of Shiga wants the right to have a say over any restart decision. The governor of Kyoto disapproves of a restart. However, a decision on a local level is likely to be delayed as the Abe government is facing regional elections in April 2015, including for the governorship of Fukui.
At this stage, the NRA draft approval will only increase public and political opposition to any nuclear restart in Takahama.
All of Japan’s 48 reactors have remained shut down, with no nuclear plants operating since September 2013. By embracing energy efficiency and renewables, the people of Japan have shown that nuclear power is unnecessary and belongs to the past.
So why isn’t the Nuclear Regulation Authority listening to them, the people they are supposed to serve, instead of doing the bidding of the nuclear industry?
(Image: Military ship and MV ‘Pacific Pintail’ in front of Takahama Nuclear Power Plant in Uchirua Bay, Japan. Surrounded by Japanese police and coastguard, Greenpeace activists in inflatables protested in Uchiura Bay. The protest addressed the BNFL ship ‘Pacific Pintail’ departing after being loaded with rejected weapons-usable Plutonium Mox fuel being shipped back to the UK. 07/04/2002 © Greenpeace/Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)
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