Volcanoes in southern Japan have put at risk the announced reopening of the Sendai nuclear reactor in Satsumasendai. Government sources have indicated that the volcano on Mt. Ontake, near the Sendai nuclear reactor, will not alter plans for the return to online status of the electrical generation station.
Published reports from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority have said that there is no danger of an eruption from Mt. Ontake. The volcano is located close enough to the twin reactors to cause concern. The volcano at Mt. Ontake erupted on Sept. 27, 2014, and search efforts for seven missing mountain climbers lost in the eruption have been suspended for this year, due to various weather conditions. Fifty-four deaths have been attributed to this most recent eruption, with another forty people injured, according to published reports.
The Mt. Ontake volcano was inactive as of Oct. 1979 when it erupted, spewing a reported 200 tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. This most recent eruption took authorities by surprise, as no earthquakes of apparent consequence were recorded. Scientists use earthquake readings to predict volcanic eruptions, which by nature is an inexact science.
Japan has more than 100 active volcanoes within its borders, and fully 10 percent of the Worlds active volcanoes reside inside Japan. These active volcanoes are all part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a tectonic plate system that encircles the Pacific Ocean. A subduction zone runs directly beneath Japan.
Toshitsugu Fujii, a Professor Emeritus of Volcanology at the University of Tokyo, and a well-respected member of the volcanic research community, has contradicted published reports from the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority. These reports state that the Sendai twin reactors meet or exceeded the much tougher safety requirements adopted in the wake of the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan, and the resulting Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority said in a statement last month that predates the most recent eruption of Mt. Ontake on Sept. 27, 2014, that there was no possibility of an eruption of the volcano within a time span of the next thirty or forty years. The expected life span of the Sendai reactors is thirty years.
Fujii’s comments indicated that it was “simply impossible” to predict an eruption, or more pointedly, a lack of an eruption, for a 30 or 40 year span, adding that the ability to predict volcanic eruptions over this length of time was, “extremely limited.” He added that an eruption of the lava repository at any one of the many active volcanoes near the Sendai complex could become a national crisis on a scale greater than that of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, if pyroclastic flow or ash were to hit the power plant.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the topic of Japan’s recovery from the 2011 tsunami and the resulting Fukushima nuclear meltdown, has pushed for the restarting of any and all nuclear reactors that have been deemed safe to be brought back online to stabilize the Japanese economy, providing for cheaper energy prices for consumers. According to the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority, the Sendai twin nuclear reactors are the first nuclear facilities to be approved under the newest guidelines for safety.
In addition to the perilous volcanoes in and around Mt. Ontake, there is another in close proximity to the Sendai Nuclear reactor that may have a similar effect if it were to erupt. Mt. Sakurajima, which is only 25 miles away. Japanese Volcanologist Toshitsugu Fujii urges caution and reevaluation of this issue.
By Jim Donahue