We outlined concerns about this back in 2014. It started with the Sendai nuclear reactors and their risk for damage from nearby active volcanoes. Even when nuclear plants are not close enough to be directly damaged by lava flows, the ash fall creates significant risks.
Ash flow that can blow and fall over long distances can take out power grid systems and back up diesel generators leaving a nuclear plant in a station black out. Without a source of power, cooling and control systems quickly become inoperable.
Japan’s NRA initiated a volcano study in 2014, expected to be concluded in 2015 after multiple academics and others raised concerns. This new information was not made public until now. In the interim, multiple reactors in these high volcano risk areas have been allowed to restart operations.
Kyodo News reports ash flow impact on these 8 reactors is potentially 100 times worse than previously calculated. It is not clear if this is the original NRA study or one conducted by FEPCJ (Federation of Electric Power Companies Japan). NRA does confirm that this risk would likely knock out grid power and the air filter systems for the diesel generators. NRA is set to adopt these new much higher ash fall numbers while they are encouraging plant operators to improve air filters. It is not clear if any improvement to the existing systems could overcome a significant ash fall.
This risk has been well known since at least the 1980’s. The big question now, will NRA allow these plants to continue to operate without factual proof that they could withstand this kind of ash fall and actually operate through such an event?
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