Greenpeace welcomes move to shut down Japanese nuclear plant; will US nuclear regulators learn from Japan?
by Joe Smyth
CNN reports that Japan's Prime Minister has called for a nuclear plant that threatens millions to be shut down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster:
Japan's prime minister said Friday he has asked the operator to shut down the nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear plant until earthquake and tsunami protections can be built.
The plant -- located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, southwest of Tokyo -- is vulnerable and could produce "grave damage to Japan" similar to the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said.
"The primary reason for this request is in the interest of the safety and security of the people of Japan," Kan said. "We came to this conclusion because of the grave impact on Japan's people that could be incurred as a result of a serious accident at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant."
Greenpeace Japan Executive Director Junichi Sato welcomed the announcement:
“Greenpeace welcomes Prime Minister Kan’s request to close Hamaoka, one of the most dangerous nuclear reactors in Japan,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “This is the first time a Prime Minister has directly requested a nuclear plant in Japan be closed, however, it cannot be the last.”
“Fukushima has provided a stark reminder of the consequences of nuclear power, and there are many other dangerous reactors still online. The government must continue to close and decommission existing plants, cancel all new reactor builds and put Japan on a course for a future powered by renewable sources of energy. Only then can the Japanese people feel their government is truly putting their safety first.”
2.9 million people live within 75 kilometers (about 47 miles) of the Hamakoa nuclear plant (see this article and map tool from Nature Magazine for more information about the world's nuclear plants and nearby threatened populations) and indeed, the plants proximity to large populations was highlighted as a key reason for the decision.
In New York, many times more people - more than 17 million - live near Indian Point, an aging nuclear plant whose owner, Entergy, is seeking to run the reactors for an additional 20 years. 4.7 million people live within 50 miles of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massahcusetts. But, just like the nuclear corporations they are supposed to regulate in the 'interest of the safety and security of the people,' so far, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems to be ignoring the lessons from Fukushima. They have continued to rubber stamp efforts to run old nuclear reactors longer and harder than ever before, and even approved the Vermont Yankee re-licensing application days after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began.
Will public officials in the US look to Japan and recognize that we need to prioritize shutting down nuclear reactors that threaten so many millions? Or, as Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford asked: "Will it take a Chernobyl or a Fukushima on US soil before our lawmakers understand that nuclear power is unnecessary, dangerous and expensive?"