” A senior official from the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday underlined the importance of building an emergency response center that can sufficiently withstand a disaster at a nuclear power plant, noting the effectiveness of such a facility is one of the lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis.
At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, a so-called seismically isolated building played an important role providing shelter to emergency responders in the wake of the 2011 nuclear accident caused by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
Juan Carlos Lentijo, the organization’s deputy director general and the head of the department of nuclear safety and security, said the quake-resistant center “was instrumental for conducting mitigation operations.”
“I think this is one of the major lessons from Fukushima,” the official from the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an interview with Kyodo News.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. set up the quake-resistant building equipped with devices and resources for power generation, communications, radiation exposure mitigation at Fukushima after an administrative building was rendered unusable by a major earthquake at another multi-reactor power complex in Niigata Prefecture in 2007.
Unlike reactor-housing units, the seismically isolated building sustained no major damage in the disaster and currently accommodates staff engaged in disaster containment operations at Fukushima.
In Japan, whether to install seismically isolated facilities is drawing renewed attention as the nation has been rebooting nuclear reactors that had been mothballed after Fukushima. Not all the plants have such disaster response setups.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. has been criticized by the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for scrapping a plan to establish a reinforced building with an earthquake buffer mechanism at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, after the plant was restarted last year.
Kansai Electric Power Co., meanwhile, said that it has yet to decide when to start running a seismic isolation facility at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, backing away from its earlier plan to begin operating it by the end of March 2018.
Lentijo said that “it is important to build a strong center” with “appropriate resources to deal with an emergency, even a severe accident.”
“Fortunately, in Fukushima Daiichi, they had this center that survived both — the earthquake and the tsunami,” he said.
And risks stem from not just earthquakes, he noted. “In other countries the lesson is to enhance this center to deal with flooding, for example, or with hurricanes.”
Regarding the Japanese utilities’ plans for seismic isolation buildings, Lentijo said it is for the national authorities, which have knowledge about specific sites, to evaluate. ”