Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Governor Satoshi Mitazono Prioritizes Public Safety Over Nuclear Complex in Kagoshima Prefecture

The island of Kyushu hosts Japan's only operating nuclear reactor, the Sendai nuclear PP.

This plant has a poor operating history and there was considerable opposition to re-starting reactors there:

Tadahiro Katsuta. Why was the Sendai nuclear power plant restarted? Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. August 12, 2015,
Citizens used the court system to try to block re-start of the Sendia plant:
Court refuses to block restart of Sendai reactors. (2015, April 21). NHK,
A Japanese court has dismissed a request to block the restart of 2 nuclear reactors in southwestern Japan.   A group of citizens had sought an injunction to keep the Number 1 and 2 reactors at a nuclear plant in Satsuma-Sendai City in Kagoshima Prefecture offline.
The 12 citizens from Kagoshima and 2 neighboring prefectures argued that earthquakes and large volcano eruptions could cause serious damage to the reactors.

The plant's operator, Kyushu Electric Power Company, argued that the 2 reactors are strong enough to withstand earthquakes. The utility also said chances of a huge volcano eruption are slim.
 The court explicitly decided that the level of risk did not preclude re-starting the Sendai plant:
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

MIYAZAKI--A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy.  Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.

“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.
Citizens were outraged that an executive decision was made by the court despite strong community opposition to reactor re-starts.

Citizens were also outraged that inadequate radiation protection measures were in place. The Asahi Shimbun reported in March 2016 that many of the radiation monitors installed for evacuations near the Sendai plant were "useless":
Useless radiation tools installed for evacuations near Kagoshima plant March 14, 2016   
Nearly half of the radiation monitoring posts installed for issuing evacuation orders around the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture are actually useless for that purpose, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.  In the event of a nuclear accident, evacuation orders are issued immediately when airborne radiation levels reach 500 microsieverts per hour. But 22 of the 48 monitoring posts around the Sendai plant can only measure radiation levels up to 80 microsieverts per hour, according to a survey on the equipment.
Citizen concerns were marginalized in the push to re-start reactors.

In April of 2016 the Japanese island of Kyushu experienced over 1000 earthquakes, at least two of which were major quakes that caused landslides and destroyed homes and businesses:
Number of earthquakes exceeds 1,000 in Kumamoto area. THE ASAHI SHIMBUN. April 28, 2016

[Excerpted] More than 1,000 earthquakes with an intensity of at least 1 on the Japanese scale of 7 have hit Kyushu since the seismic activity started on April 14, the Japan Meteorological Agency said April 28....
Can you imagine what its like for people living downwind of the Sendai plant in the wake of this unprecedented swarm of earthquakes?

Not surprisingly, anti-nuclear sentiment has grown in Kyushu. A new governor elected in Kagoshima Prefecture ran on an anti-nuclear platform that has the central government worried:

New governor’s Sendai plant shutdown pledge alarms utility. THE ASAHI SHIMBUN July 12, 2016 at 17:30

Concern is growing among Kyushu Electric Power Co. and the central government over the new Kagoshima governor’s pledge to request a reassessment of the Sendai nuclear plant’s safety in light of the recent Kumamoto quakes.

Satoshi Mitazono, a former political reporter with TV Asahi Corp., was elected on his campaign pledge to build a “society without nuclear energy” in the July 10 gubernatorial race, defeating incumbent Yuichiro Ito.

Mitazono, 58, wants to suspend operations at the plant for a review of its emergency evacuation plan and to re-examine its safety features.

Governor Mitazono should be applauded, in my opinion, for prioritizing the welfare of the people in his prefecture in the arena of nuclear security.

Kyushu Electric Power Company is not pleased. Its shares "tumbled 7.5% to a three-year low Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal (Mayumi Negishi July 12, 2016, A14).

The WSJ article also noted that "The Japanese public remains skeptical about the safety of nuclear power after the 2011 triple meltdowns" at Fukushima. 

Despite this skepticism, the LDP, which now has become entirely ascendant in national politics, plans to restart at least 32 of Japan's 54 reactors so that nuclear power constitutes 1/5 of the nation's total electricity generation by 2030.

Nuclear INSECURITY reigns in Japan despite the efforts of concerned officials such as Mitazono.

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