Japan’s NRA has given the go ahead to restart two reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant. A recent court decision rejected the concerns of the public related to the safety of the plant. The needed local approvals are expected to permit the plant to restart even though public opinion is about two to one against restarts. The first reactor could restart as early as July.
One volcano 64km from the nuclear plant erupted last October. Now one 160km south of the plant is actively erupting. Residents of that island are being evacuated. Even a distant volcano can cause serious problems for a nuclear plant. The ash released in an eruption can take out power lines and cause equipment such as diesel generators to fail. We also found other risks that are unaddressed with the Sendai plant related to any disaster response.
While the nuclear plant restarts are largely a political move to shore up the profit margins of struggling electrical utilities, other challenges go unaddressed. Sendai still lacked an evacuation plan as of last September. There is also a serious gap in any plan for dealing with Japan’s growing spent nuclear fuel problem. The previous fuel reprocessing plan has run into even more problems since the Fukushima disaster and may never see actual operation. Meanwhile fuel storage at nuclear plants may be at capacity within two years of reactor restarts.
With experts disputing the safety of restarting the Sendai reactors due to the proximity of so many active volcanoes they may be tempting fate.
image credit | kyodo news
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