13 Août 2015
August 12, 2015
The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture has been restarted, running under a new set of safety standards enacted after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about these safety standards.
Question: What are these new standards?
Answer: The new standards are safety measures for running nuclear power plants, renewed after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In that disaster, tsunami devastated the facility causing the plant to lose all its power sources. The plant could no longer cool its nuclear fuel and it experienced a meltdown, spewing radioactive substances into the environment. Using the Fukushima disaster as a lesson, the new standards require power companies to prepare countermeasures against earthquakes and tsunami. The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant was judged by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as meeting those new standards.
Q: What is different at the plant under the new standards?
A: Buildings were reinforced so that they will not collapse even in the event of a major earthquake, and it was confirmed that there are no active faults directly underneath the plant. A tall wall to stop tsunami was constructed, along with doors that can be used to prevent flooding. Backup power and water coolant delivery mechanisms were also prepared in the event that the plant loses power. An area for workers to assemble and respond to emergencies was also created.
Q: Is the plant fully protected then?
A: Not necessarily. Even though the plant passed the new measures, they are only standards. Just like with a car, where the ultimate responsibility for safety lies with the driver even if the car is deemed as roadworthy, the ultimate responsibility for nuclear power plants' safety lies with the power companies that operate them. Furthermore, just like the brakes on a car can become faulty with age, the longer the machinery at a nuclear plant is used, the more likely something will go wrong. It is the responsibility of a driver to not skip safety checks on their car, just as it is the responsibility of power companies to keep up safety inspections on their plants.
The Fukushima disaster showed us that the effects of a nuclear disaster have the potential to ruin a nation. No matter what safety measures are put in place, there are limits to what humans can anticipate. There is always the risk of the unexpected. Both the national government and power companies should not forget that there is no end when it comes to safety precautions. (Answers by Yuka Saito, Science & Environment News Department)
August 12, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)