Another Fukushima In The Making? Nuclear Reactors Near Active Volcanos In Japan Unsafe, Says Volcanologist

A prominent volcanologist is disputing the Japanese regulators’ conclusion that two nuclear reactors were safe from a volcanic eruption in the next few decades. The volcanologist notes that such a prediction was “impossible.”

According to the Washington Post, a cauldron eruption at one of several volcanos surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan could not only hit the reactors, but could cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, University of Tokyo professor emeritus, who heads a government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction. In fact, it appears that nuclear regulators are banking on the fact that an eruption won’t take place in the region for the next 30 years.

Nuclear regulators last month said two Sendai reactors fulfilled tougher safety requirements set after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The regulators ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years, until the reactors’ reach the end of their usable lifespan. Essentially, the regulators felt that the nuclear reactors would be out of use before a volcanic threat was presented. Therefore, they approved the reactors for use.

However, a surprise eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan on September 27 has renewed concerns about the volcanos in the region. Fujii notes that it is “impossible” for regulators to say with certainty that an eruption will not take place in the next 30 years.

“It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years. The level of predictability is extremely limited.”

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In fact, Fujii says a reliable prediction can only take place hours or days in advance of an eruption. Fujii seems concerned that the volcano panel was created after the reactors were approved for restart. Fujii also claims that volcanos don’t have to be in extreme close proximity of the reactor to cause an issue. Reactors could be harmed by large amounts of ash fall as well, according to The Spec.

Heavy ash falling from an eruption would make it impossible to reach the plant, and could also affect many parts of the country including Tokyo, he said. Fujii noted that as little as four inches of ash could make roads impassable in the area of the reactors saying that only a tank would be able to make it through those types of conditions.

Fujii is a member of the volcano panel, and says that even though a catastrophic eruption could occur only once in as many as 10,000 years, a likelihood of one cannot be ruled out either. This makes the reactors a safety risk, as officials cannot say with certainty an eruption will not occur within the next 30 years.

“Scientifically, they’re not safe. If they still need to be restarted despite uncertainties and risks that remain, it’s for political reasons, not because they’re safe, and you should be honest about that.”