Update: Chubu Electric Company will suspend Hamaoka nuclear power plant.
TOKYO (majriox news) – Prime Minister Naoto Kan warning of the risks in operating nuclear power stations in Japan, an earthquake-prone country, likely resulting in one of the country’s largest utilities shutting off its key facility.
A five-reactor plant located in Shizuoka prefecture, south-west of Mount Fuji facing the sea, will shut down for two years, at least. Currently only two of the five reactors at Hamaoka are in operation.
To speed up closure Kan called on Chubu Electric Power, a regional utility, to halt reactor numbers four and five currently in operation, and to keep shut down reactor number three, now being readied for reopening this summer after maintenance work is completed.
Advocates of caution say that if a reactor blew up in the Shizuoka region, through which runs roughly half of the rail and road communications of this huge economy, then Tokyo would grind to a halt, as would the coastal Tomei expressway.
“Japan would be finished,” says a Japanese energy industry expert, who is close to Naoto Kan. “Mr. Kan has shown courage in coming out in defiance of the nuclear power lobby in Japan.”
The Kan supporter telephoned the prime minister after Kan had called on Chubu Electric Power to shut down its entire nuclear operations at Hamaoka pending the construction of higher sea walls, facing the Pacific, and improved protection of generating equipment on the sites of power stations.
Kan bases his case for keeping shut the five reactors at Hamaoka on historical projections that show that there is a 87 percent chance of a magnitude 8 earthquake coming up in the Chubu region of Honshu Island, within the next 30 years. However, proponents of nuclear power in Japan say that alternative energy sources, such as solar and windmill-powered generation, are far more expensive and unreliable or irregular.
The prime minister, for years an agnostic on nuclear power, has aligned himself with nuclear-averse public opinion on the long-term government policy, which is to expand Japanese nuke power. In fact, only 22 out of Japan’s nuclear power reactors are in operation. That is out of a total 54 reactors nationwide, including six located at Fukushima Daiichi power station, all currently closed down.
Reopening plants that were doing maintenance became impossible after Japan’s worst ever nuclear accident occurred at the Fukushima plant, located about 220 kilometers (138 miles) north of Tokyo, on March 11, resulting in 25,00 deaths, and sending a wave of anxiety across the world over radiation scares.
Scott Stokes was the former Tokyo bureau chief of the Financial Times, The Economist and the New York Times. His upcoming book on Commodore Perry is published by Overlook Press of New York.