Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with key ministers yesterday to discuss re-starting certain nuclear power facilities in the country. After last year’s Fukushima disaster, all 54 of Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down. As noted in this article in Japan Today, Noda is seeking to re-start at least two plants on the west coast of Japan to help alleviate summer power shortages.
Japanese officials have been considering re-starting a portion of their nuclear power capacity since the beginning of the year. There has been much resistance to these efforts from many environmental groups, especially Green Peace which has been protesting this move from the beginning. In fact, Green Peace used the one year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and the overall shutdown of the nuclear power program in Japan as a basis for an open letter to all world leaders to “end the threat of nuclear power.” As stated by Green Peace:
The (open letter) signatories include: Archbishop Dr. Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate; Marina Silva, former Brazilian Environment Minister; Senator Bob Brown, Australian Green Party Leader, Ralph Nader, US environmental activist; John Hall, former US Congressman; Richard Harvey, international Human Rights lawyer; several artists; leaders of human rights, labour, development and environment organisations, such as Action Aid International, Health Care without Harm, Greenpeace International, World Team Now, Friends of the Earth US, CIVICUS, the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action against Poverty, and many national non-governmental organisations.
Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power to provide 30% of its electricity. It is understandable that they would consider bringing nuclear plants back onto the grid that they feel are in “safe” seismic zones.
But, are any of their nuclear plants in “safe” seismic zones?
This map shows the seismic fault lines that surround Japan:
And this map shows the location of nuclear reactors in that country:
The two plants that the Japanese government would like to initially re-start, owned by Kansai Electric Power, are located on the Sea of Japan on the opposite side of the island from Fukushima. It is generally felt that a tsunami is unlikely in the Sea of Japan because of its small oceanic footprint.
As has been reported in many engineering studies, and as I noted in an earlier post, Fukushima was designed to withstand at least a 9.5 magnitude earthquake. But, it wasn’t designed to withstand a ten foot high wall of water created by a tsunami.
As the seismic map illustrates above, there are two fault zones located in the Sea of Japan not far from the Kansai plants.
Should Japan roll the dice and hope that potential earthquake and tsunami damages at that site are impossible?