Japan’s nuclear power plants to be forced to assess risks from volcanoes

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Mount Fuji

Japan, one of the most densely populated nations in the world, lies in a zone of extreme crustal instability named the Ring of Fire, where 90% of the world’s earthquakes and a large number of volcanic eruptions occur.  The Ring consists of 25,000 mile series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and grinding tectonic plates all bent into a horseshoe shape.   10% of the world’s active volcanoes are found in Japan, the most famous perhaps is Mount Fuji.  A little-known fact is that most of Japan’s nuclear power stations have at least one volcano which may become active in the future within a 160 kilometer radius.

This week, for the first time in history, officials from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority discussed plans to force utilities to assess and take into account for risks posed to nuclear power facilities from volcanoes within this 160 kilometer radius.  A serious accident could easily be experienced if a volcano were to erupt near a nuclear power plant as the volcanic ash and flows of hot rock fragments and gases reached nearer to the facility.  Not only would workers need to ensure that off-site power was not knocked out, they would also need to be able to transfer spent fuel from temporary holding facilities and spent fuel ponds at the power plant sites.

The new guidelines say that if a volcano has the potential to spew lava, a new nuclear power plant cannot be established in the area and existing ones should be shut down.  Experts warn that Japan’s reactors are currently ignoring the enormous threats posed by volcanoes, and that some power stations may be found so at-risk that operators will be forced to decommission them.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that it will come up with the final guidelines by July.

Source: JiJi Press


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