Quake expert urges Japan to overhaul nuke policy

June 23, 2011 - 3:59 AM
Japan Earthquake

In this photo taken on June 21, 2011 and released on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), a worker in a protective suit stands by radiation shield mats which are used to protect workers in the Unit 2 reactor building at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan needs to overhaul its nuclear policies and may never be safe for atomic power because it is too prone to earthquakes, a leading seismologist and former government nuclear safety adviser said Thursday.

Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a professor emeritus at Kobe University, said virtually all facilities around the country are in danger of the same kind of crisis faced by the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"It is very difficult to find a safe plant in Japan," said Ishibashi, who is also a former member of the government's nuclear safety committee.

Japan is one of the world's most seismically active countries. Ishibashi said that makes pursuing an aggressive nuclear power strategy more dangerous than in Europe or on the East Coast of the United States.

"From the viewpoint of seismology, all nuclear plants in Japan are in danger of earthquakes," he said at a news conference at The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. He added that from an "economic and engineering perspective" it is difficult to strengthen them.

Ishibashi called for a new review of Japanese nuclear power plants. He has warned about the seismological risks of nuclear energy previously, but Thursday's comments came amid growing opposition to nuclear power in Japan, which depends on nuclear for about one-third of its electric power.

Earlier this month, anti-nuclear protesters held demonstrations across Japan to mark the three-month anniversary of the March 11 disaster. Some called for the country's nuclear plants to be shut down immediately.

Japan's nuclear vulnerability was revealed when the magnitude-9 earthquake hit off Japan's northeast coast, causing a huge massive tsunami that knocked out power and cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

The ongoing crisis in Fukushima, which could takes months or years to resolve, has already impacted Japan's energy policy.

Japan had planned to raise its reliance on nuclear to 50 percent by 2030, but the government has announced it will abandon that target and promote renewable energy instead. The government is also conducting a broad review of the Fukushima disaster and its safety measures.