Japan Restarts Nuclear Plants, then Orders Quake Fault Survey

Thursday, August 02, 2012
Fukushima Reactor No. 1 in 2008 (photo-Kyoto News via AP)
Putting the cart before the horse can have dangerous consequences if the cart is a nuclear power plant and the horse represents earthquake safety.
But that’s what has happened in Japan, where the government decided to restart some of its nuclear reactors, all of which were shut down following the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami that produced the radiation crisis at the Fukushima plant. After officials ordered the restart of two plants in July, utility companies requested earthquake fault studies to determine if seismic activity poses a risk to the reactors heating back up.
One reactor going back online in Ishikawa Prefecture sits above what may be an active fault. But officials will only consider decommissioning the reactor if geologists confirm this danger, which probably won’t happen until next year.
Another facility, the Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture, uses a water line needed for emergency cooling that runs above another potentially active fault. The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is expected to report its findings on the fault by the end of this year.
Japanese politicians are taking a political risk in allowing the plants to reopen, considering the fact that most of the population (80%) would prefer the country do away with nuclear power, according to one survey.
The announcement that nuclear power is coming back has provoked “weekly demonstrations” outside the prime minister’s office, according to Tina Gerhardt at Huffington Post, with crowds growing from the hundreds to the thousands in recent weeks.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
As if Nothing Happened, Japan Goes Nuclear Again (by Philippe Pons, Le  Monde/WorldCrunch)



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