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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

nuke drill at Kshikawa Prefecture by Japan

In many industries, safety is given the go-by – workers do not wear proper tools and safety precautions are not insisted upon … people are so keen to protect their mobiles with scratch guards – but no helmets when it comes to their precious head ! – when fire alarms ring, people move out so casually and reluctantly, thinking it to be only a mock exercise .. !!  People of Japan are different – thousands took part in a drill held at Ishikawa Prefecture nuclear power plant.  On 2nd Nov 14, the Govt started a two-day drill to respond to a severe nuclear accident at a power plant in central Japan.  The drill assumed that Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture had been hit by an earthquake measuring upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 at 8 a.m., had lost its external power supply and was leaking radioactive material.

Japantimes reports that at 1:30 p.m. the government announced a nuclear state of emergency because water supplies to the plant, located in the town of Shika, had been cut and the plant was unable to cool its reactors. Government officials ordered residents within 5 km of the plant to evacuate and instructed them to take iodine tablets in advance to reduce the effects of radiation exposure. Residents within a 30-km radius were ordered to stay indoors. At a simulated meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the government will take steps to prevent the accident from getting out of control and contain it swiftly and ensure people’s safety. Reports on situations were made in the meeting at the prime minister’s office through a teleconference system linking such places as the town and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).

Since the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, this is the second such drill by the government after one conducted last year at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. No details regarding the scenario are told to participants in advance of the two-day drill so as to make the situation closer to the real thing.  The Japanese Press reports that some  3,700 people participated in the drill, including about 1,000 residents near the plant and participants from such government agencies as the Cabinet Office, the NRA, Defense Ministry and the National Police Agency. Local governments in not only Ishikawa Prefecture but also Toyama Prefecture, which is within a 30-km radius of the plant, also participated in the drill.

Japanese have reasons to fear and have had experience of disasters first-hand.  The World remembers the Fukushima nuclear disaster – that shook Japan on 11th March 2011.   The  nuclear disaster occurred  at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant resulting in a meltdown of three of the plant's six nuclear reactors.  The failure occurred when the plant was hit by a tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake.  The plant began releasing substantial amounts of radioactive material becoming the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second (after Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. 

Fukushima is in further news as new trade and industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa paid a visit to the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant over the weekend, his first since replacing Yuko Obuchi, who resigned in October over a funding scandal. Miyazawa visited the wrecked plant on Saturday before going to Kagoshima Prefecture to push for the restart of idled reactors there, apparently to fend off criticism that he places greater importance on promoting restarts than dealing with the societal fallout from the triple meltdown in Fukushima. Miyazawa is quoted as saying that  the reactors at the Fukushima plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., and the Sendai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Kagoshima are different because the safety of the latter has been confirmed by new safety tests introduced as a result of the Fukushima disaster.

The central government and Kyushu Electric are trying to win local consent to restart the two Sendai reactors because they were the first to clear the new safety regime.

Away from the melee, there are reports citing the International Reinsurer that the private insurance industry will not be significantly affected by the disaster. It is stated that "Coverage for nuclear facilities in Japan excludes earthquake shock, fire following earthquake and tsunami, for both physical damage and liability and hence the incident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is unlikely to result in a significant direct loss for the property & casualty insurance industry.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th Nov. 2014.

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