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Nuclear disaster evacuation plans worry many local authorities


Workers clean up a bus that transported evacuees in a nuclear disaster evacuation drill in Shizuoka in February.

Nearly half of local governments polled are concerned about the recommendation that residents living within 5 to 30 kilometers of a nuclear power plant should “evacuate” by staying indoors if a serious accident occurs, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.

The survey also showed that a quarter of local governments want a review of the central government’s evacuation guidelines, which were set in October 2012 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster the previous year.

It was taken to find how local governments hosting a nuclear facility or located in the vicinity of a nuclear plant view the guidelines in light of the recent series of earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture.

In the quakes that began in mid-April, a large number of homes, as well as roads and other structures, were damaged. Continuing aftershocks added to difficulties in victims’ abilities to evacuate quickly.

The nuclear disaster evacuation guidelines were compiled on the assumption of a serious accident occurring at a nuclear complex, but do not take into account the destruction of evacuation routes, bridges and other buildings in the surrounding area, caused by a powerful earthquake, for example.

Shiga Prefecture, which called for a review of the guidelines in May, said: “Indoor evacuation would be unrealistic if a nuclear accident were coupled with an earthquake. Evacuation to the area beyond 30 km should be considered.”

Under the current setup, people living within a 5-km radius are ordered to evacuate immediately.

Those within a radius of 5 to 30 km are advised in principle to stay indoors initially and evacuate in stages, depending on the amount of radiation released into their neighborhoods.

Indoor evacuation” for such a zone is aimed at allowing the smooth evacuation of people in the 5-km zone first to avoid an expected gridlock.

But many local governments are wary of the central government’s recommendations, citing the possibility of a complex disaster involving more than just a nuclear accident, according to the survey.

The survey, conducted in mid-June and mid-July, covered 21 prefectural governments and 135 municipalities that fall within the 5-30 km radius. All the local governments responded but one, the Fukui prefectural government.

Of the total of 155, The Asahi Shimbun analyzed the responses of 151, as the remaining four municipalities replied that they will evacuate immediately. Most of these municipalities’ jurisdictions are also situated within the 5 km radius.

The survey showed that 71 local governments, including Niigata and Ibaraki prefectures, expressed concerns about the guidelines, while 22 replied that they are not.

Asked to choose one or more reasons for their anxiety, 56 cited the response to a situation where a large number of structures are destroyed.

As for the need to review the guidelines, 37 respondents, including Nagasaki and Shizuoka prefectures, agreed while 13 did not. Sixty-four said they don’t know.

According to the survey, 12 local governments replied that they are well prepared with regard to the infrastructure that enables smooth evacuation, whereas 69 cited problems with that issue.

How to evacuate in a nuclear accident that could be triggered by a devastating earthquake or another disaster that destroys homes and infrastructure has emerged as a pressing issue since the Kumamoto temblors.

Kagoshima’s new governor, Satoshi Mitazono, was elected in July on his campaign pledge to review the existing evacuation plan in connection with a hypothetical accident at the Sendai nuclear power plant.

The nuclear power station in Satsuma-Sendai in the prefecture is the only plant online in the nation and is situated relatively close to an active fault that is believed to have slipped in the Kumamoto quakes.

Despite growing concerns voiced by local governments, the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s secretariat, which compiled the guidelines, said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun that it will not consider a review.

Indoor evacuation will not be for a prolonged period,” said an official. “Gyms and other public facilities would be available for residents even if their homes were destroyed.”

The official also said local governments can improve their evacuation plans based on their understanding of local conditions.

August 3, 2016 - Posted by | Japan | , ,

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