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article imageJapan's nuclear reactors near active volcanoes 'unsafe'

By Karen Graham     Oct 17, 2014 in Environment
The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake in Central Japan on Sept. 27 has renewed concerns over nuclear power plants' safety. A prominent vulcanologist is disputing the decision to put two Sendai nuclear power plant reactors back on line.
Professor Emeritus Toshitsugu Fujii, of the University of Tokyo heads up the government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction. He has issued a dire warning in light of nuclear regulators decision to allow the Sendai Nuclear Power plant to go back on line. He said on Friday a cauldron eruption at any one of the several volcanoes close to the plant could cause a national disaster.
"It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years," Fujii said. "The level of predictability is extremely limited." Fujii pointed out that at best, eruptions could only be predicted in a matter of days or hours.
Nuclear regulators have said the chance of an eruption from one of the several volcanoes surrounding the Sendai power plant was negligible. They claim the reactors will be safe for the next few decades, until they reach the end of their life-span. Regulators are saying the reactors fulfill the tougher, more stringent safety requirements put into place after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The Sept. 27 eruption of Mt. Ontake in Central Japan was caught on video. Here we see the pyroclasti...
The Sept. 27 eruption of Mt. Ontake in Central Japan was caught on video. Here we see the pyroclastic flow just moments after the initial eruption started.
Screen grab
Japan is a nation of 6,852 islands, and is home to over 127 million people. The Japanese people also live in a volcanic zone called the "Pacific ring of fire." At last count, there were 108 active volcanoes in Japan. Because the country is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, Japan has the highest natural disaster risk in the developed world.
History has shown that an eruption 90,000 years ago of one of the volcanoes near the Sendai power plant in Kagoshima prefecture spread a pyroclastic flow as far as 90 miles (145 kilometers) away, Fujii said. He said a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano only 25 miles away, could easily hit the power plant.
In the Japanese government's effort to reassure people over the safety of restarting the Sendai power plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga spoke at a news conference shortly after the eruption of Mt. Ontake. "This was a steam-driven [eruption] and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict," he said.
Shortly after his news conference, protesters were out in full force. “No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike. The fact that they could not predict the Mount Ontake eruption highlights that,” one organizer, Yoshitaka Mukohara, told Reuters, according to RT News.
Anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo.
Anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo.
Kevin Meyerson
According to Fujii, only 10 cm of ash could be destructive, rendering all vehicles inoperable. The weight of the ash on power lines would break them, cutting off electricity needed for the reactor cooling systems to function. But Prime Minister Abe is more concerned over getting the reactors at Sendai, as well as 46 other reactors, back on line and producing electricity. This is deemed key to Japan's economy.
Fukushima problems get worse after Typhoon Vongfong visits Japan
Workers are still struggling to build that underground ice-wall at Tepco's tsunami-crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant. However, the typhoon last week has raised the amount of radioactive water to record levels. The levels of radioactive isotope cesium are now at 251,000 becquerels per liter, three times higher than previously-recorded levels, according to the RT News. Cesium is known to cause cancer.
Fukushima was right in the path of Typhoon Vongfong  a Category 4 storm with winds up  to 165 mph.
Fukushima was right in the path of Typhoon Vongfong, a Category 4 storm with winds up to 165 mph.
Screen grab
Additionally, high levels of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, are very high. Samples taken on October 9 indicate that there are 150,000 becquerels of tritium per liter in the groundwater near Fukushima, says JIJI Press. The Oct. 9 levels are 10 times higher than the levels recorded a week before.
“Materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels, the utility said of the sample,” JIJI reported.
The bigger problem that should be considered is the discharge of these isotopes into the Pacific Ocean in large quantities. But absolutely nothing is being done, nor has there been much coming out of Japan on the issue.
Extra measures to deal with this problem are not on the table. “Additional measures have been ruled out since the depth and scope of the contaminated water leaks are unknown, and TEPCO already has in place several measures to control the problem, such as the pumping of groundwater or walls to retain underground water,” according to the IANS news service.
Despite all the demonstrations against the return to nuclear power, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going ahead with his plan to get most of the power plants on line again. He says this despite a protest involving over 16,000 people in Tokyo on Sept. 23. Believe it or not, nuclear regulators in Japan say nuclear reactors over 40 years old will be decommissioned, unless, and this is the kicker, they are giver a 20 year extension. Enough said.
More about Japan, Nuclear reactors, vulcanologist, Volcanoes, unpredictable
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