Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Point About The Oi Reactor Restart

Martin Fackler has had an article published in the NYT:
Japan Seeks to Restart Some Nuclear Power Plants
The New York Times

TOKYO — Hoping to avert potentially devastating summer power shortages, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday that his government would seek to restart two nuclear reactors, in what would be a first step toward ending an almost complete shutdown of the nation’s nuclear power industry.

Mr. Noda declared units No. 3 and No. 4 at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant in western Japan to be safe based on the results of computer simulations designed to check the reactors’ tolerance of a large earthquake and tsunami like those last year that knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The resulting meltdowns and explosions spewed radiation across a wide area of northeastern Japan and the Pacific Ocean in the worst nuclear accident since the one at Chernobyl a quarter century earlier.

Mr. Noda now faces the tricky task of convincing skeptical local leaders and voters in Fukui prefecture, where the Ohi plant is located, that it is safe to turn the reactors back on. Public concerns about safety after the Fukushima accident have prevented Japan from restarting any of its nuclear reactors as they have been gradually taken offline for legally mandated maintenance checks...

Except for the cryptic reference to "skeptical local leaders" Fackler and the NYT manage to almost, but not quite, entirely miss the main point regarding the restart of Oi reactors. Given the government's new, Fukushima-derived regulations regarding evacuations out of areas within 30 kilometers of a nuclear power station, not just 10, the range of evacuation goes beyond the borders of Fukui Prefecture and well into Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. The major cities of Obama (Fukui Prefecture) and Maizuru (Kyoto Prefecture) are within the 30 kilometer zone.

As far as the governors of Kyoto and Shiga are concerned, the government has done close to nothing to help prepare their prefectures for an accident at Oi. The mayor of Maizuru says it is simply not the time to restart the reactors (J) -- prompting a major presentation by Democratic Party Policy Research Chairman Maehara Seiji in the city last night (J).

The takeaway missing from Fackler's report is that restarting the nuclear power plants now involves far more municipalities, prefectures and voters than the original start ups did. As Daniel Aldrich has documented, it was hard enough to win local approval to build the darn things in the first place. The problem now is that post-Fukushima, what counts as "local" is too big and too variegated for the power suppliers and the government to buy off.

Convincing so many folks that they must run the risk of losing their hometowns (not their their lives - as nuclear advocates say, no one died from the Fukushima nucleotide release, if one does not count the individuals who survived the tsunami but were trapped in the debris and were left to die of shock, dehydration and starvation when rescue crews were pulled from the disaster zone) and livelihoods so the neon can stay in Osaka, when Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru has declared war on the DPJ-led government for trying to restart the Oi reactors (J) -- well, it is a bit more of a climb than the Fackler piece indicates.


Michael Penn said...

Good post. But I think you need to be more careful about the Fukushima casualty figures. As of February, local authorities in Fukushima had attributed 573 deaths to the accident from causes such as fatigue, depression, and the aggravation of preexisting illnesses. These were mostly elderly people who couldn't survive the evacuations and living in emergency shelters. This figure does not include suicides, the rate of which reportedly doubled in the local area after the accident, including farmers despondent about the loss of their businesses. As for the nucleotide release, I would suggest we need to wait a few decades before we can start to judge its real effect.

Anonymous said...

I think they're caught up in trying to govern, when it is clear they are not in a position to be able to do so. DPJ would be much better off if they staked the ground clearly of orderly exit from nuclear and let those in opposition and would be opposition agitate and drive the restarts. Oi is nothing compared to trying to bridge the 18 and 21 meter hight gap they've introduced for the Hamaoka sea walls. There is the same pattern as in Futenma and elsewhere of promising or allowing promises to be inferred and then to have to back out.