Japan to Restart Nuclear Reactor Despite Opposition

Japan to Restart Nuclear Reactor Despite OppositionJapan to Restart Nuclear Reactor Despite Opposition

Japan’s plans to restart the Sendai nuclear reactor won’t be affected by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Ontake, the government said. The reactor is in a separate volcanically-active area, which rose concerns for its safety after the Saturday eruption.

The eruption that is presumed to have killed dozens of people is not a reason for a safety reassessment for the Sendai plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“This was a steam-driven [eruption] and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict,” Reuters cites him as saying.

Opponents of the nuclear restart, who gathered Sunday for a protest rally in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu in Japan’s southwest, where the power plant is located, say that is exactly why they don’t want it to be operational again.

“No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike. The fact that they could not predict the Mount Ontake eruption highlights that,” said Yoshitaka Mukohara, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

“There were plumes above Sakurajima yesterday and today. We have no idea when something might happen,” he said in a reference to Mt. Sakurajima, a volcano located some 50km from the facility. The volcano experiences hundreds of minor eruptions annually.

Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The Sendai facility was cleared on September 10 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to be restarted. The watchdog said the danger of major volcanic activity in the area during the reactor’s lifespan was negligible.

The plans to bring back online the nuclear power plants cause protests among many Japanese, who remain fearful of nuclear technology. The government insists that the risks are small and that the reactors are necessary to provide cheaper energy to the economically-challenged Asian nation, which used to rely on nuclear power for a great part of its electricity generation before the Fukushima disaster.

Meanwhile, five more bodies were found near the summit Mt. Ontake on Monday, bringing the total presumed dead to 36, police said, as toxic gases and ash from the still-erupting mountain forced rescue workers to halt efforts to recover the victims.