Last week’s deadly earthquakes on Kyushu Island did nothing to the island’s nukes. The two killed at least 58 people, injured more than three thousand others, and made 80,000 homeless. The two operating Sendai units continued full-power operation without a glitch, supplying nearly 1,800 MWe much-needed electricity to the Island. They are located more than 100 kilometers south of the two quake epicenters. The quakes have generated wide Press coverage over whether or not the Sendai nukes should be shut down. However, none of the Press reports mention the likely negative impact shuttering Sendai would have on victims’ health and safety, not to mention the limitations imposed on post-quake recovery.

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority says there was no scientific reason to shut down Sendai station. Agency officials met on Monday to examine the impact of the frequent quakes and aftershocks on the region’s nukes since Thursday. They said the maximum acceleration at the plant was 8.6 gal, which is far lower than the 160-gal motion that would SCRAM the reactors. The NRA said that since plant’s anti-quake measures are for much more powerful earthquakes, there is no problem with continuing operations. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said the agency can shut down a nuclear plant if it poses safety concerns, but there is no scientific evidence showing that’s required now.
  • The NRA says it should have released information sooner about the non-impact of the quake on Sendai station. NRA Chairman Tanaka said, “We have been warned that our provision of information may not have been sufficient. We must reflect on our conduct in a candid way.” Tanaka was responding to harsh Press criticism that alleged the NRA was failing to do its job by not immediately announcing the condition of the Sendai units when the two sequential quakes hit. Tanaka explained, “We will decide whether to stop the operations of nuclear power plants based on scientific and technological standards. Under the current circumstances, we do not see any safety problem.”
  • Antinuclear groups have made a formal appeal to Kyushu Electric Co. to shut down the two Sendai units, saying, “Based on the experience at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it is clear to everyone that it would be too late if you waited for some abnormality to occur.” In parallel, Japan’s communist party said Sendai should be shut down because some rail lines have been severed by the Kyushu Island quakes and there would be major evacuation problems if there was a nuke accident. Aileen Mioko-Smith of Green Action Japan told the Press, “We are very worried, for a number of reasons. The NRA failed to carry out a risk assessment for an inland crustal earthquake, which is precisely the kind of tremor that we have seen in Kumamoto. We are also concerned about the cumulative effect of all the aftershocks after the main quake.” Meanwhile, Environment Minister Tamayo Murakawa restated the Nuclear Regulation Authority statement that the tremor recorded at Sendai was well-below the limit for operation, “The NRA has judged there is no need to stop the Sendai plant.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “Under the current circumstances, there is no need to stop the plant because (the shaking) is sufficiently low.”  —
  • The Japanese Press broadcasts antinuclear actions concerning Sendai, both inside and outside Japan. An internet-based petition to shutter the Sendai units gained 42,000 signatures from around the world, Fukui Prefecture nuke activists criticized Kyushu Electric for continuing Sendai operation, and a national mayor’s group said the government should re-evaluate its standards for nuke operations during earthquakes. From outside Japan, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Edwin Lyman said, “Given the general situation on Kyushu — including the ongoing seismic and volcanic activity, the large number of evacuees, and the damage to the transportation infrastructure — I believe it would be prudent for the reactors to be shut down until conditions have stabilized.”