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Takahama: What about evacuation?

December 4, 2015

Mayor OKs reactor restarts at Takahama nuke plant; questions remain on evacuation plan

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20151204p2a00m0na014000c.html

 

TAKAHAMA, Fukui -- The mayor of this coastal town gave consent to reactivating the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear plant on Dec. 3, in defiance of a landmark district court decision that barred the reactors from being restarted as well as lingering skepticism over the town's nuclear accident evacuation plan.

Mayor Yutaka Nose gave the green-light during a town assembly meeting, with the aim of reinvigorating the local economy, which depends heavily on the nuclear complex.

"After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, measures required (for nuclear facilities) changed drastically," Nose remarked at the outset of the meeting, adding, "We will respond to the matter from a comprehensive perspective while placing top priority on safety."

The town is home to the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama nuclear plant. In April this year, the Fukui District Court issued a provisional injunction ordering the reactors remain suspended, and legal judgment on the case has yet to be finalized. The town's resident evacuation plan in the event of a nuclear accident is also called into question in terms of its viability.

After the town assembly meeting on Dec. 3, Nose told reporters, "The judicial branch made its decision based on the law, while I made my decision as an administrator in consideration of residents' safety and disaster prevention schemes."

All 14 town assembly members were present at the meeting, while only 15 people occupied the gallery seats. The mayor's declaration to approve the reactor restarts caused a mixed reaction among the observers, with anti-reactivation residents sighing audibly, while a pro-restart resident questioning why it took so long for the mayor to give the go-ahead.

It's been almost three years and nine months since all four reactors at the Takahama plant were suspended.

"I haven't heard of any cases of local businesses going under due to the suspension of the plant, but its repercussions vary depending on the type of business," said a town official.

The town has financially benefited from the nuclear complex, hosting some 1,000 workers during regular inspections of the facility -- a far greater figure than usual. A man in his 80s in the construction business said, "We have a lot of civil engineering work to do thanks to the implementation of new regulatory standards (for nuclear reactors), but stores and inns that had anticipated demand from regular inspections are having a tough time."

In the meantime, anti-nuclear disaster measures are not fully in place yet. Under the town's evacuation plan, residents are supposed to flee in family cars or buses prepared by the municipal and prefectural governments to the Fukui Prefecture city of Tsuruga -- some 50 kilometers east of Takahama -- or to the Hyogo Prefecture city of Takarazuka, among other areas. Residents will be screened for radioactive materials en route to their evacuation destinations. If necessary, residents will undergo a decontamination process.

According to an estimate by the Fukui Prefectural Government, most of the approximately 55,000 residents within a 30-kilometer radius of the Takahama plant will be able to get outside that radius within 11 hours of an evacuation order. However, the escape routes include the two-lane Maizuru-Wakasa Expressway and National Route 27.

"If the news of a nuclear accident breaks, residents would panic," said Yukihiro Higashiyama, 69, head of the citizens group "Furusato o mamoru Takahama Oi no kai" (Association of Takahama and Oi for protecting our hometowns). "Because there are many narrow roads, car accidents may also happen. The evacuation plan is an armchair theory only."

 

 

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