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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 January 22 - 28  > Nuclear accident may isolate residents on peninsula in Ikata
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2014 January 22 - 28 [NUCLEAR CRISIS]

Nuclear accident may isolate residents on peninsula in Ikata

January 22, 2014
Amid the Abe Cabinet’s promotion of the reactivation of nuclear power reactors, only 40% of municipalities around nuclear power plants have fulfilled their obligation to finalize a plan to evacuate their residents in case of a nuclear accident.

The U.S. government’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, examines if nuclear reactors’ emergency evacuation plans are effective in case of an accident. It decided to have reactors decommissioned if their evacuation plans were found to be unfeasible.

Since the Fukushima nuclear accident, the Japanese government requires 135 municipalities located within a 30km radius from nuclear power plants to come up with an evacuation plan for their residents. It, however, does not require an evaluation of their effectiveness.

Only 53 out of the 135 local governments have so far submitted their evacuation plans. One of them is Ikata Town, Ehime Prefecture, which hosts the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is now examining Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s application for restarting the operation of the Ikata plant.

The Ikata plant stands at the eastern end of the Sadamisaki Peninsula, the longest and narrowest peninsula in Japan that stretches from east to west. At the narrowest point of the peninsula, both the north and south sides of the ocean are in the line of sight.

“We are concerned about residents living in the western side of the plant. They could be isolated in the event of an accident,” said an official of the Ikata Town office.

According the evacuation plans compiled by the governments of Ikata Town and Ehime Prefecture, 5,000 residents in the western side of the plant will be evacuated by either passing by the nuclear facility or by boarding ships.

A woman running a souvenir store at the tip of the Sadamisaki Peninsula said, “We cannot board ships if a tsunami occurs, and there’s no way to safely pass by a crippled plant. We thus have no route to be evacuated. I was talking with my neighbors and we agreed that we would probably not survive a major accident.”

The local governments have yet to come up with evacuation measures for patients in hospitals or those receiving nursing care. A director of a nursing-care facility in the town said, “More than half of our patients are in wheelchairs. It would be extremely difficult to get them evacuated.”

An official in the Ehime Prefectural government argues that although the national government leaves evacuation measures to local governments, it should address how to evacuate patients as a common task for many municipalities.

Japanese Communist Party Ehime Prefectural Assembly member Sasaki Izumi stated that lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accidents should be incorporated into evacuation plans. “However, what is needed first and foremost is to keep all nuclear reactors offline,” he stressed.

Past related issues:
> Majority of local gov’ts near restart-seeking NPPs have no evacuation plan [September 3, 2013]
> Hard to evacuate residents living within 30km-zone in nuclear accident [April 1, 2013]
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