Warning over nuclear plant

2012-11-11 11:24
A screen grab taken from live news footage by Japanese public broadcaster NHK shows the damage after a hydrogen explosion at number three reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. (NHK, HO, AFP)

A screen grab taken from live news footage by Japanese public broadcaster NHK shows the damage after a hydrogen explosion at number three reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. (NHK, HO, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Tokyo - Japan's only working nuclear power plant sits on what may be a seismic fault in the earth's crust, a geologist has warned, saying it is "very silly" to allow it to continue operating.

Mitsuhisa Watanabe says the earth's plates could move underneath the Oi nuclear plant in western Japan, causing a catastrophe to rival last year's atomic disaster at Fukushima - although some of his colleagues on a nuclear advisory panel disagree.

"It is an active fault. The plates shifted some 120 000 to 130 000 years ago for sure," Watanabe, of Tokyo's Toyo University, told AFP.

"In research that I have conducted on active faults in Japan and overseas, structures built above them were all damaged" when they moved and caused an earthquake, he said.

Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphologist, is part of a five-member team tasked by the Nuclear Regulation Authority with looking into the tectonic situation underneath the plant, where the country's only working reactors are.

Discussion

Geomorphology is the study of the evolution and configuration of landforms.

Under government guidelines atomic installations cannot be sited on a fault - the meeting place of two or more of the plates that make up the earth's crust - if it is still classed as active, that is, one that is known to have moved within the last 130 000 years.

A positive finding would mean regulators must order the suspension of operations at the plant in Fukui prefecture.

But other scientists on the panel say it is too early to class it as an "active" fault that might pose a risk to the plant, calling for "a scientifically calm approach".

The team's head, Kunihiko Shimazaki, who is also a member of Japan's nuclear regulatory body, says the geological scarring they can see was probably caused by little more than a long-ago landslide.

Instead of the definitive green light that plant operator Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) was hoping for, the committee last week said only that more work needs to be done.

"It's desirable for all members to reach a conclusion by consensus," Shimazaki said.

However Watanabe, asked if the government should allow KEPCO to continue running the plant at Oi, said: "It would be a very silly option."

"We would have learned nothing from Fukushima. I'm afraid we would see a repeat (of the disaster) one day."

Big protests

He maintains that the plant could be vulnerable to a sizeable earthquake, which might "cause a very serious problem... similar to the Fukushima one".

But he stresses that the science thus far is simply not conclusive and argues work should halt out of an abundance of caution.

"We are not seeking to decommission the plant," Watanabe said. "We should first stop operation and then carry out underground investigation thoroughly before reaching a conclusion."

All Japan's nuclear reactors were shut down in the months after the disaster at Fukushima, when an earthquake-sparked tsunami knocked out cooling systems and caused meltdowns that scattered radiation over a large area.

Hundreds of thousands were made homeless and tracts of prime agricultural land were left unfarmable.

Atomic power

Despite widespread public fears over the safety of nuclear power, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June ordered the restarting of reactors at Oi amid fears of a summer power shortage.

That ended a brief nuclear-free period for a country that - until the Fukushima disaster - had relied on atomic power for around a third of its electricity needs.

The move was welcomed by the influential business lobby, but was deeply unpopular with a vocal anti-nuclear movement.

Regular anti-nuclear protests continue to be held in Tokyo. Organisers claim thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of people take part, demanding an end to nuclear generation.

A protest billed as set to attract a million people was due to be held near the prime minister's residence on Sunday, although participation was thought unlikely to be anywhere near that figure.

With a possible eye on the general election expected over the coming months, the government announced in September it would work towards a policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2040.

Critics rounded on the announcement as both populist and "incoherent" because it contained get-out clauses that would mean as-yet unfinished nuclear plants would still come online.

Watanabe said a heavy burden rests on those tasked with ensuring public safety, citing the jail sentences handed out to six seismologists in Italy after a court said their underestimation of the possible effects of an earthquake had contributed to the death toll in the central city of L'Aquila.

"We have to sound the alarm as soon as we find the possibility of active faults," he said. "The accident in Fukushima had really never been imagined. Scientists must learn from that."

- SAPA
Read more on:    japan  |  fukushima disaster  |  nuclear
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Camping gear!

We’ve got all your camping must have’s right here at mind blowing low prices. Check them out now!

Herbex – buy 3 & get 1 free!

Fat burn packs, appetite control chewies, stretch mark cream and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

30% off Jinger Jack handbags

Spice up your wardrobe and save 30% on stylish Jinger Jack handbags. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 books & pay for 2

The cheapest of the 3 books will be free. Offer valid while stocks last. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

Deal of the week!

Hisense 40” Full HD LED Television now R3999. Offer valid while stocks last. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Today is a good day to network and share your ideas and thoughts with your colleagues and friends. Information overload is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.