Tremor Fears Force Closure of Nuclear Reactor

The newest nuclear power station in Japan was ordered yesterday to shut down because of the danger that it could spew radiation if it were ruptured by an earthquake.

Tremor Fears Force Closure of Nuclear Reactor

A panel of judges in the city of Kanazawa ruled that earthquake-resistance precautions at the Shika nuclear power plant were inadequate and based on out-of-date science. The reactor remains in operation pending an appeal, but the decision will shake the Japanese nuclear industry, which produces almost a third of the country's electricity.

"An earthquake larger than what the electricity company had anticipated could occur," said Kenichi Ido, the chief judge, ruling in favour of 135 plaintiffs from across Japan. "If radioactivity is released, the dangers of infringing upon personal rights of residents will exceed a tolerable level."

The islands of Japan, positioned close to the meeting place of three of the Earth's tectonic plates, suffer regularly from powerful earthquakes. But they also have 55 nuclear reactors, several of them, such as Shika, built close to active fault lines. All are designed to withstand earthquakes up to a certain magnitude. But it is difficult to be sure of the maximum strength of a potential tremor.

"Japan's nuclear reactors, including the No 2 reactor at the Shika plant, would not withstand a real earthquake," a statement by the plaintiffs said. The Shika reactor began running only on Wednesday last week and is the country's second biggest in terms of capacity. The plant is also close to the Ochigata fault line, where earthquake researchers believe that simultaneous quakes could combine to generate one of magnitude 7.6 that would shake the plant severely.

Japan's status as the only nation to suffer atomic attack gives it an especially queasy attitude to radiation. The absence of any domestic oil or gas reserves makes it unusually dependent on nuclear power, but public faith in the industry has been shaken by accidents. In 1999 two workers at the Tokaimura plant were killed after an explosion, and 600 local people were exposed to lower levels of radiation. Eighteen months ago, four workers were killed by a leak of non-radioactive steam at the Mihama plant west of Tokyo. Three days ago, there was a minor fire at another nuclear power station in Fukui.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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