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Fukushima scenarios used in evacuation drills at two Japanese nuclear plants

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TAKAHAMA, FUKUI PREF. – Some 11,000 residents of Fukui and Kyoto prefectures participated in two major disaster drills on Saturday and Sunday centered on hypothetical nuclear accidents at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama and Oi nuclear power stations.

The exercises were jointly organized by the central government and the prefectural governments of Fukui, Shiga and Kyoto.

Saturday’s drill at Takahama involved about 9,000 residents. It was intended to examine the workability of evacuation plans approved by the national government last December.

The scenario was a strong earthquake off Wakasa Bay, near the plant. The tremor measured a lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 0 to 7.

The facility’s No. 3 reactor was assumed to have lost all power, leading to the release of radioactive substances — as happened at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011.

Evacuation plans require residents within 5 km of plants to evacuate immediately upon an accident occurring. Those living up to 30 km away are meant to stay indoors until radiation alarms detect fallout in the air.

Some experts have cast doubt on whether it is a good idea to order people to stay indoors when reactors are spewing radiation.

For example, when quakes pummeled Kyushu this spring, about 160,000 houses and buildings collapsed. If that were to occur in Fukui, many residents would find it difficult to shelter indoors.

In the Kumamoto earthquake, there were cases where people returned to their homes after the initial quake, only to be hit when houses collapsed in the second quake, said Hirotada Hirose, a professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, a specialist in disaster risk management.

If a severe nuclear disaster occurs, evacuating in phases isn’t likely to go well,” he said. “The evacuation plan should assume many scenarios.”

These could include cases where an earthquake cuts traffic, jamming the roads with panicking residents who ignore advice and are trying to flee in large numbers.

Nonetheless, Saturday’s exercise finished without any major hiccups.

By doing the drills with local governments and residents over and over again, disaster-prevention skills will improve,” said Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa.

As part of the exercise, at the town hall of Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, Kansai Electric workers screened evacuees for radiation exposure. They also checked the buses for contamination.

One of the would-be evacuees was Masatoshi Nose, 46, a city government employee from Obama, Fukui Prefecture.

As this is a drill, I was able to come here smoothly,” Nose said. “But in a real disaster situation, it may take an entire day.”

Also, poor visibility scrubbed plans to use a Ground Self-Defense Force helicopter to extract 20 residents from near Takahama.About 180,000 people live within 30 km of the plant whose No. 3 and No. 4 reactors were restarted in January and February, only to be halted again after the Otsu District Court in Shiga in March issued a provisional injunction following a petition by residents.

Meanwhile, on Sunday about 2,000 local residents participated in an evacuation drill under a scenario where Kansai Electric’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture experiences a catastrophic accident.

The drill was organized by the Fukui Prefectural Government.

The residents took shelter in their homes or evacuated to elsewhere in the prefecture as part of an effort to test response times to an accident.

The evacuation drill was only carried out within Fukui Prefecture itself as no evacuation plan covering a wider area has been drawn up for the plant, located in the town of Oi.

Residents within 5 km of the plant fled to the city of Tsuruga, and Oi residents within 30 km of the plant moved to the city of Ono, about 100 km away.

For the evacuees from Oi, a facility was set up for the distribution of iodine tablets to mitigate radiation exposure and to check for contamination.


August 28, 2016 - Posted by | Japan | , ,

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