Extract from The Asahi Shimbun
March 6 2023
FUKUSHIMA – Six of 15 locations with nuclear power plants, excluding those in Fukushima Prefecture, have not compiled sufficient emergency plans, including wide-area evacuations, in the event of a serious accident.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pushed a policy to “return to nuclear power,” but disaster prevention challenges remained unresolved, and local people have expressed concerns.
The emergency plans were deemed necessary after the March 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.
Niigata Prefecture hosts TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, one of the largest in the world.
On Feb. 7, disaster prevention officials of municipal governments in the prefecture held an annual meeting online in Niigata with staff of TEPCO and members of the Cabinet Office in charge of nuclear emergency preparations. One theme at the meeting was whether people could safely flee if a severe accident were to occur at the plant on a day with heavy snow.
“For our residents, heavy snow is a threat much closer than terrorism, and it could cause tremendous anxiety and risk,” said a Nagaoka city government official, urging the prefectural government to examine evacuation plans in heavy snow.
Municipal governments within a radius of 30 kilometers of a nuclear power plant are required to draw up evacuation plans for severe nuclear accidents and discuss emergency procedures with the central government.
These plans are then supposed to receive approval at a nuclear emergency preparedness meeting chaired by the prime minister.
Disaster prevention officials have had difficulties securing routes and transportation means for many people to evacuate all at once.
In a wide-area evacuation plan designed by the Ibaraki prefectural government, residents are supposed to leave in their own cars.
The prefecture will ask bus companies for cooperation to evacuate senior residents and disabled people. The prefectural government estimates that more than 400 buses will be needed for the task, and it does not know how it can secure that many buses.
One guiding principle of the nuclear emergency preparedness was created in response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Until then, the areas required to have an evacuation plan in place were located within 8 to 10 km of nuclear plants.
But the Fukushima accident showed how radioactive materials could spread to wider areas.
The central government expanded the radius to 30 km and required municipal governments within the areas to compile evacuation plans. The central government also set up a group to discuss nuclear-related disaster-prevention measures in normal times.
But more than 10 years have passed since then. And many of the populated areas still do not have evacuation plans.
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