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New guidelines raise new questions

October 4, 2012



New nuclear disaster guidelines raise hurdles for nuke plant reactivation



The new nuclear disaster guidelines released by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) largely expanded the municipalities to fall under anti-disaster measures from 45 to 135 cities, towns and villages, raising hurdles for the reactivation of nuclear plants that require local permission.

The NRA released the new guidelines on Oct. 3 and they presuppose that "nuclear accidents could happen," according to an NRA member. Under the latest guidelines, the number of municipalities subjected to disaster prevention measures was raised from 45 in 15 prefectures to 135 in 21 prefectures. Because power companies are required to gain understanding from local municipalities surrounding nuclear plants before reactivating reactors, the new guidelines apparently made it more difficult for early plant restarts.

Meanwhile, areas that had thus far been free from nuclear disaster prevention are now faced with the need to pursue measures for resident evacuation and other steps, leaving some municipalities at odds.

"We have yet to examine where and how all our residents would be evacuated," said an official with the Ibaraki Prefectural Government's nuclear safety measures department. The prefecture hosts the Tokai No. 2 Power Station, whose Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) is home to some 930,000 residents -- the nation's largest.

According to an estimate by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government, the 7,080 buses registered in the prefecture can only transport up to 240,000 people. The prefectural government also envisages evacuation using private cars but is faced by a mountain of challenges including traffic jams.

The Tokai Municipal Government has repeatedly asked the Ibaraki Prefectural Government to "take the initiative in deciding where to evacuate residents as it is expected to become an extensive evacuation," whenever information exchange meetings were held between village and prefectural officials in charge.

In June, the Ibaraki Prefectural Government organized a study meeting at its office inviting representatives from 14 cities, towns and villages that will fall under the UPZ in case of a nuclear accident at the Tokai No. 2 Power Station.

The UPZ surrounding the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station in Shizuoka Prefecture -- which has been under suspension at the government's request in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster -- hosts some 740,000 residents.

"We still can't specifically designate the UPZ and draw up concrete evacuation methods because the central government hasn't presented us with the results of radioactive material diffusion simulations," said Kunihiko Sugiura, head of the nuclear safety measures department at the Shizuoka Prefectural Government. The prefectural government is also faced with challenges including the relocation of an off-site center from the current location only about 2.3 kilometers away from the Hamaoka plant to somewhere else.

Kyoto Prefecture, which is only 4.4 kilometers away from the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and has thus heretofore formulated disaster-prevention measures with the UPZ in mind, is apparently upset with the central government's delayed initiatives. The prefectural government is waiting for the central government to come forward with radioactive material diffusion simulation results before deciding where to evacuate residents in the event of a nuclear disaster at the Takahama plant.

Specifically, the city of Kyoto -- which falls under a 30-kilometer radius from the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture and is the nation's only government-designated major city to fall under the UPZ -- mapped out a provisional plan on the city's nuclear disaster responses in March. On Sept. 1, the city conducted radiation dosimetry tests on residents near the UPZ. "The central government should make decisions with a greater sense of urgency," complained Fujio Yoshida, head of the crisis control department at the Kyoto Prefectural Government.

Shiga Prefecture, which is only 13 kilometers away from the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, used to be ineligible to receive information from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) under the former government guidelines. While the prefectural government used to predict the extent of radioactive material diffusion on its own and designated areas up to 43 kilometers away from the Tsuruga plant as falling under the UPZ, the new guidelines allow the prefecture to receive SPEEDI information. The prefectural government is planning to combine its own projections and data from SPEEDI in demanding the central government to take fiscal measures for preparing protective equipment and iodine tablets.

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