Updated Sept. 22, 2014, CBS News: watch 2:11 news spot
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Posted Sept. 17, 2014, The New York Times: ” All of Japan’s 48 operable nuclear reactors — the source of about one-third of the country’s electricity — were shut down after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Three years later, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has certified two reactors at the Sendai power plant on the southern island of Kyushu meet the safety standards imposed after the accident.
It could be months before either reactor is turned on. The company that owns the reactors will make that decision after getting local consent. Even so, the authority’s certification is a major step in the government’s effort to restart the nuclear industry. The authority was created two years ago to restore public confidence in nuclear oversight. The government gave it responsibility to set stricter safety standards and to determine whether reactors met them.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to restore nuclear power as part of his plan to revive the country’s sputtering economy. The public is divided. There is enthusiasm among some locals who see the plants as a source of jobs, but skepticism, according to polls, in the population as a whole. Fukushima showed that absolute safety of nuclear power is a dangerous myth, especially in earthquake-prone Japan. The Sendai plant might have cleared stricter earthquake and tsunami standards, but it is also located in an active volcanic area, about which the new safety standards say little.
In addition, the authority’s assessment did not address the issue of evacuation in case of an accident, which is the responsibility of local governments.
A simulation conducted found that it could take as long as 28 hours to evacuate 90 percent of the residents from within a 30 kilometer radius of the Sendai power plant. Local governments lack the capacity and expertise to conduct a major evacuation, and local leaders have asked the national government to take a more active role in forging evacuation plans. The chaos that ensued from the Fukushima accident should be an obvious reminder of the need for such plans in the event of a major accident. ”