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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 October 29 - November 4  > Volcanologists: nuclear regulator overly optimistic about danger of volcanic eruptions
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2014 October 29 - November 4 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Volcanologists: nuclear regulator overly optimistic about danger of volcanic eruptions

November 4, 2014
The Volcanological Society of Japan on November 3 issued a proposal calling on the Nuclear Regulation Authority to admit to the difficulty in predicting volcanic eruptions and to revise its guidelines on how nuclear power station operators should cope with volcanic eruptions.

The society’s committee on risks of volcanoes around nuclear power stations submitted the proposal to the general assembly of the academic society held in Fukuoka City.

In September, the NRA examined the Kyushu Electric Power Company’s application for the reactivation of reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture based on the guidelines. The nuclear watchdog stated that the possibility that the Sendai NPP will receive damage from an eruption at one of 14 volcanoes near the power plant is fairly low. It approved the utility’s plan to remove nuclear fuel from the power station when detecting signs of impending eruption.

However, it takes years to remove fuel rods out of nuclear power stations because they need to be cooled for a long time after the reactors stop operating. Scientists have argued that no one can successfully predict a major eruption of a volcano well in advance.

Shizuoka University Professor Ogawa Masato in his lecture at the society’s conference on November 2, pointed out, “Modern volcanology knows little about eruption forecasting.” He criticized as too optimistic the NRA which judged that a prediction of volcanic eruptions is possible.

In the past, huge eruptions occurred in southern Kyushu, where the Sendai NPP is located, and created enormous calderas. Even the plant operator admits that at that time pyroclastic flows may have reached the area of the current NPP site.

***
Economy Minister Miyazawa Yoichi on November 3 visited the Kagoshima Prefectural Government office to obtain the governor’s consent to a plan to restart the reactors at the Sendai NPP.

More than 100 people, including some Japanese Communist Party members of the prefectural and city assemblies, gathered in front of the prefectural office building to protest against the visit by the economy minister.
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