Source: Japan Times May7 issue
Widely forecast Chubu quake prompts prime minister to take action
Kan requests full closure of Hamaoka power plant
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday he instructed a utility to shut down a nuclear power plant in central Honshu because of concerns it might be compromised by major quake or tsunami that is expected to hit the region.
Kan said the measure was to ensure safety, citing widespread forecasts that there's a 90 percent chance of a major quake striking the Chubu region, a roughly nine-prefecture area just west of Tokyo, in 30 years.
"If an accident occurs at Hamaoka, it could create serious consequences," Kan said in a hastily arranged news conference, referring to the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Chubu Electric Power Co. has two active reactors and a third that's been shut for regular inspections at the plant, which is on the coast of Shizuoka just southwest of Mount Fuji.
Chubu Electric will shut down all of the remaining active reactors at Hamaoka, company sources said.
Kan said the nuclear power station should be halted until the utility takes medium- to long-term measures to protect against natural disasters, including ocean embankments.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said later in the day that the Hamaoka plant is likely to be shut down for around two years.
Japan has been stepping up efforts to improve nuclear safety since the March 11 mega-quake and tsunami caused the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter century at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. The tsunami left more than 25,000 people dead and missing in the northeast Tohoku region.
Kan said that the closure of the plant might cause power shortages in Chubu Electric's service area in the summer.
But Kan promised that the government will take utmost measures not to cause a major imbalance in power demand and supply in the region. He also called on the public to conserve electricity.
Situated on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, the Hamaoka complex was built near a major fault line and currently has its No. 4 and 5 reactors online. It was hoping to restart the No. 3 reactor as early as July.
Reactors No. 1 and 2 have been out of operation for some time and are scheduled to be decommissioned.
The Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant lost its power and cooling systems, triggering fires, explosions and radiation leaks that combined to make it the world's second-worst nuclear accident.
Radiation leaks from the Fukushima plant have forced 80,000 people living within a 20-km radius to leave their homes. Many are living in gymnasiums and community centers.
Residents in Shizuoka have long demanded the suspension of the Hamaoka reactors.