Not a day passes without news of fires and water leaks in various nuclear power plants in Japan: after Fukushima, Genkai, Mihama leaks last week (these are geographically as far as can be from each other in Japan), it is the turn of Tsuruga in Fukui prefecture to be on fire (again). Tsuruga is, along with other troubled Mihama and Monju reactors, situated on “Nuclear Ginza” coast of the Sea of Japan in Honshu, close enough to cities like Nagoya and Kyoto to cause a disaster in case of accident.

Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant

Wikipedia article about Tsuruga is subject to change and is reproduced below (read about the latest issue in NHK World article hearafter):

Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plants – Events

  • In March 1981, drainage from unit 1 caused a release of radioactivity. The forty-day cover-up of a spill of 16 tons of radioactive primary cooling water was revealed only in April.
  • On 2 May 2011, Kyodo officials announced higher levels of radioactivity in the cooling water, JAPC admitted technical problems and announced to check for radioactivity on a daily basis from now on, instead of checking only every week, what has been standard procedure up to now.
  • On 12 November 2011 at 7:45 PM local time a fire broke out in the No. 1 reactor. After a switch for a spare electrical device at the water processing facility was operated by a worker, the fire was ignited because a short circuit caused a series of hot sparks. After the fire was put out, no casualties were reported. JAPC said that there was no leakage of radiation, because the reactor was closed for inspection.

Juridical actions of citizens against restarting the nuclear reactors

On 8 November 2011 a group of 40 citisens of Otsu prefecture Kyodo started a similar law suit at the Otsu District Court against Japan Atomic Power Company. They asked for a provisional court order to delay the restart of the two reactors at the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Tsuruga. The plaintiffs argued that:

  • Lake Biwa, could be contaminated when a nuclear accident would occure at the plant
  • The whole region of Kansai is dependent on this biggest lake of Japan because it is the source of drinking water for the whole region
  • an accident would endanger the health of all residents
  • the Tsuruga plant is built on a site with a fault below it and a severe accident could occur during an earthquake
  • the No. 1 reactor had been more than 40 years in service since it was first operational in 1970, and the Tsuruga plant was insufficiently protected against tsunami.
  • the ongoing regular checks were done under the government’s safety and technological standards, and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima had proven that those regulations were insufficient.
  • the reactors should remain shut down until the cause of the disaster in Fukushima would be fully investigated
  • the regular checks should be performed under the new safety standards.

The operator of the plant did not want to make any comment to the press. At that time the two reactors of the plant were shut down for regular checkups. But the four-month inspection of the No. 2 reactor could be completed in December, and the checkup of reactor 1 could be completed in March 2012.

The NHK World article title aims to reassure and downplays the incident but it is only a matter of time before a more serious accident occurs either Mihama, Tsuruga or Monju, given the unprofessionalism, lack of ethics and the obsolescence of the facilities (even though fast breeder Monju is not completed and will never be operational). The operator had just submitted preventive reports and safety measures 2 weeks ago to avoid this kind of incident, which shows that Japanese nuclear industry is efficient at producing paperwork but not carrying out its own recommendations. One can only wonder why Vietnam, Thailand, India or China would want to import nuclear reactors from Japan – they might be better off with a used plant from Russia. It is highly unlikely that radioactive material leaks have been avoided even though there are no reports about it. We can only hope that next post will not be about “Smoke On The Water” (And Fire In The Sky).

NHK World – Fire under control (sic) at Tsuruga nuclear plant

A fire at the Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, has been brought under control. There are no reports of radioactive materials having leaked to nearby areas.

Japan Atomic Power Company, the plant operator, says the blaze broke out at 7:45 PM on Monday. A worker had turned on a switch for a spare electrical device located at a water processing facility in the No. 1 reactor.

Workers at the plant managed to put out the fire. No one was injured.

JAPC says there is no radiation leak because the reactor had been closed for inspection.

The plant operator says there was a short circuit, and the fire may have been caused by sparks.

The cables were brought in to replace the regular power supply system, which is scheduled for inspection, with an auxiliary power source.

Three other fires have broken out at the plant between March 2010 and October 2011, when workers were welding or using gas burners for maintenance.

JAPC had submitted reports on fire prevention and safety measures to avoid this kind of accident on November 30th.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 03:16 +0900 (JST)

Read also Mihama Reactor Shutdown Update 1 and Nuclear Incident in Kyushu December Update 2 on SurvivalJapan.

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