Japan’s plans to restart the Sendai nuclear reactor won’t be affected by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Ontake, the government said. The reactor is in a separate volcanically-active area, which rose concerns for its safety after the Saturday eruption.
The eruption that is presumed to have killed over 30 people and left dozens injured is not a reason for a safety reassessment for the Sendai plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
“This was a steam-driven [eruption] and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict,” Reuters cites him as saying.
Opponents of the nuclear restart, who gathered Sunday for a protest rally in Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu in Japan’s southwest, where the power plant is located, say that is exactly why they don’t want it to be operational again.
“No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike. The fact that they could not predict the Mount Ontake eruption highlights that,” said Yoshitaka Mukohara, one of the organizers of the demonstration.
“There were plumes above Sakurajima yesterday and today. We have no idea when something might happen,” he said in a reference to Mt. Sakurajima, a volcano located some 50km from the facility. The volcano experiences hundreds of minor eruptions annually.
Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. The Sendai facility was cleared on September 10 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to be restarted. The watchdog said the danger of major volcanic activity in the area during the reactor’s lifespan was negligible.
The 3,067-meter volcano is the second-highest in Japan and a popular hiking spot, especially in autumn during the turning of the leaves. Its sudden eruption on Saturday took many hikers by surprise and became the first fatal volcano event in the country since 1991. Ontake’s last major eruption was recorded in 1979.