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Thursday, April 14, 2011

World right to slam nuke program mismanagement: expert


STAFF WRITER

Japan deserves international scorn for mismanaging its nuclear power program and unless the government acts quickly the odds of further catastrophes remain high, a leading seismologist said Wednesday.

"It was a matter of course that attempts by the Japanese government to operate nuclear power plants failed miserably," Kobe University professor Katsuhiko Ishibashi, who decades ago coined the term "Genpatsu-Shinsai" (Quake and Nuclear Disaster Complex), told a joint interview in Tokyo.

Ignoring the fact that approximately 10 percent of all the earthquakes on the planet take place near the archipelago was a fatal error, he said, adding that there is no such thing as comprehensive measures against quakes of the magnitude that struck the Tohoku region.

"Japan is the most dangerous place to construct a nuclear power plant," Ishibashi said.

Japan's nuclear program was bound to fail, considering how it ignored seismological history. Although studies of past temblors are crucial when it comes to choosing a site to construct a nuclear power plant, Ishibashi said such data were often ignored in the 1960s and '70s. A quick look in history textbooks would have shown that the Tohoku region is periodically hit by major earthquakes and tsunami.

"European countries that operate nuclear power plants take historical data much more seriously," Ishibashi said. But seismology took a back seat in Japan because successive govenrments prioritized locations where they could easily obtain land, win approval by local governments and quickly convince local fishermen and farmers.

Countries including Germany have rejected plans to construct nuclear plants due to the size of fault lines that would basically be ignored in Japan, Ishibashi said.

"Foreign governments and media should be condemning Tokyo for its reckless acts," he said.

Meanwhile, the March 11 quake may produce other major temblors, the expert warned.

Because of the unprecedented 9.0-magnitude quake, active fault lines all around the archipelago could be affected, he said. Under such circumstances, the greatest threat is a major earthquake in the Tokai region that seismologists predict is likely to take place soon.

"Such a scenario will definitely have an impact on the Hamaoka nuclear power plant," Ishibashi said. A catastrophe there is predicted to affect not only the central region of Japan but could also have an impact on Tokyo. "The U.S. military will also be affected - a disaster at Hamaoka will mean bases in Yokosuka, Yokota, Zama and Atsugi will all be of no use," he said.

Ishibashi has been active in warning of the dangers of operating nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone Japan for decades. On Feb. 23, 2005, he appeared before the Lower House Budget Committee and made a prophetic statement that a major earthquake would induce multiple failures and a variety of breakdowns in nuclear power plants.

He also predicted that the overheating of reactor cores could cause a hydrogen explosion, as was the case at 3 of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima No. 1.In regards to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, Ishibashi warned there is a chance the situation could go from bad to worse. The possibility of a major aftershock hitting the region, followed by another killer tsunami, "is not zero," he said, regretting that his warnings went unheeded for years.



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The Japan Times

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