Sendai reactors surrounded by 5 active volcanoes
Japan’s NRA has given the go ahead to restart two reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant. The needed local approvals are expected to permit the plant to restart even though public opinion is about two to one against restarts. The first reactor could restart as early as July.
Warnings for a minor eruption at one of the five volcanoes near the Sendai nuclear plant were sent out. The volcano 64km from the nuclear plant has seen increased activity, enough so that experts put out a warning. Japan’s government has been pushing to restart the Sendai reactors without a viable plan for dealing with volcano risk.
We also found other risks that are unaddressed with the Sendai plant related to any disaster response.
While the nuclear plant restarts are largely a political move to shore up the profit margins of struggling electrical utilities, other challenges go unaddressed. Meanwhile fuel storage at nuclear plants may be at capacity within two years of reactor restarts.
With experts disputing the safety of restarting the Sendai reactors due to the proximity of so many active volcanoes they may be tempting fate.
Risks at Sendai
The Sendai nuclear power plant located in Kagoshima Japan has been selected as the one Japanese authorities would focus on attempting to approve for restart. Intakes reside at: 5ft above sea level Intake pump buildings 13 feet above sea level Reactor blocks at about 35-40 ft above sea level
Road routes are problematic at the plant. The plant is bordered by a large river to the north, the sea to the west and a large expanse of mountains to the east. Roads route either north along the river or south following the coastline a considerable distance before you reach an area that might be undamaged. The major road that routes towards Sendai crosses the river north of the plant before a road to get to the plant could be reached, requiring another trip across the river. Miyazaki sits further to the east but again requires a north route and river crossing.
All roads to the plant from the north are dependent on a bridge across the river to travel from the north or the east. The roads to the plant from the north as they each require a bridge crossing, circled in red. The road faces the river edge and varies from 5 feet above sea level to 31 feet above sea level.
The south route goes through areas like Tsuchikawa, an area that would likely be subjected to any tsunami that would hit the plant, potentially preventing travel further east to Kagoshima. This would cause a station blackout at the plant just like at Fukushima Daiichi.
The even bigger challenge is that the conditions that would take out offsite power can’t be overcome. That had been the 500th eruption for the year and was just past the half way point of 2013.
The problems a volcano can cause a nuclear power plant is a well known problem. Ash can also cause mechanical damage to anything with moving parts that the ash may get into including pumps and generators.
The isolation of the plant due to the terrain and roads could hinder any response effort.
Non evacuation plans for Sendai
Prime minister Abe said that he approves of the evacuation plans around the Sendai nuclear plant and that he considers them “concrete and reasonable”. There is currently no agency or authority to evaluate evacuation plans in Japan.
The governor of Kagoshima said he was reluctant to develop plans to rescue all the people within 30km. “There are 17 hospitals and welfare facilities within 10 km of the plant. “We could spend long hours creating something unrealistic, but it won’t function” in the event of an actual disaster, Ito told reporters last month.”
The prefecture told the remaining facilities to figure it out for themselves how to evacuate anyone between the 10 to 30km zone.
Critics of the evacuation plans around Sendai pointed out that damage from earthquakes, landslides and tsunami were not given consideration in planning.
2 Sendai reactors cleared by NRA for restart
Japan cleared the way for a resumption of nuclear power, four years after the world’s worst atomic disaster in more than two decades led to the shutdown of all the country’s reactors and fueled public opposition to the industry.
Regulators said Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s two-reactor Sendai nuclear plant had cleared safety hurdles introduced after the triple meltdowns at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011.
The Sendai plant, in Kagoshima Prefecture, still needs to go through operational checks before a restart but these are expected to be completed without major hitches.
Volcano explodes off Kyushu 151 km from Sendai, forcing small island to evacuate
A volcano exploded Friday morning on sparsely populated Kuchinoerabu Island, sending smoke and ash soaring into the sky above Kagoshima Prefecture and residents fleeing to the safety of nearby Yakushima Island.
The 9:59 a.m. eruption of 626-meter Mount Shindake, the island’s main peak, produced a plume over 9 km high and a pyroclastic flow that reached the shoreline, the Meteorological Agency said.
There was no warning.
Situated some 100 km off the southern tip of Kyushu, Kuchinoerabu has only about 100 full-time residents. The same mountain had 178 small eruptions in March alone and produced one last week that created a plume 4.3 km high.
Nobuo Geshi of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology claims Friday’s eruption is the same type as the one seen at Sakurajima but much larger.
Geshi, who heads a group of scientists conducting research on massive eruptions, said it is very similar to the one the island experienced in 1966.
He said it can also be regarded as part of the volcanic activity that continued after the eruption last August.
Geshi pointed out that none of the past cases was a one-off eruption, suggesting the activity may continue for a while.
Kuchinoerabu, located in an area south of Kyushu with a large concentration of active volcanoes, has experienced numerous bouts of volcanic activity since Shindake’s colossal eruption in 1841, which scorched nearby villages and killed many residents.
Shindake’s volcanic activities continued in the 1960s, resulting in another massive eruption in November 1966 that hurt three people and caused shock waves and pyroclastic flows that hit Kagoshima and Tanegashima Island, one of the Osumi Islands.
The mountain also experienced a small phreatic eruption in September 1980.
Since the 2000s, a large increase in volcanic quakes and tremors has been reported.