Eight weeks after the deadly 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a meltdown at the Daiichi nuclear plant, Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday ordered a shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear plant due to its location near a risky tectonic faultline.
In a televised press conference, Kan said: “As prime minister, I have ordered, through trade minister (Banri) Kaieda, that Chubu Electric Power Co. halt operations of all the reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant,” Agence France Press reports.
According to seismic forecasts for the region, there is a 90 percent chance of a major quake occurring in the Chubu region, approximately a nine-prefecture region west of Tokyo, within 30 years.
“If an accident occurs at Hamaoka, it could create serious consequences,” Kan added, according to the Japan Times. The plant is likely to remain shut for two years while the protection measures are put in place.
Located just 125 miles southwest of Tokyo and along the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, the Hamaoka facility was built near a major faultline and it is now believed by experts that the March quake has caused a shift of tectonic plates beneath the ocean floor. The Japan Times reports that NASA’s Eric Fielding with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said there is now a trench in the ocean floor 380 kilometers long and 190 kilometers wide, caused by one tectonic plate sinking nine meters below another.
“The relevant authorities, including the science ministry, have shown that the possibility of a magnitude-8.0 earthquake hitting the area of the Hamaoka plant within the next 30 years is 87 percent,” AFP reports Kan as saying.
The Hamaoka plant will remain shut until a higher sea wall is built and additional safeguards are put in place to guard it against a major quake and tsunami, such as the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that has left a reported 25,000 dead and missing.
Another sea wall is set to be built as well for the Daiichi facility near Fukushima, but is being designed to withstand an 8.0 earthquake, less powerful than the March quake that has left the country reeling.
Around 80,000 people were evacuated from a 20-kilometer zone around the plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is reportedly hiring an additional 2000 people with nuclear training to help lessen the effects of high levels of radiation the current 1000 technicians working at the disaster are being exposed to.
The Daiichi disaster is the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Russia’s Chernobyl catastrophe a quarter-century ago.