Bringing nuclear power back online in Japan has been not been an easy route for the government, who shut down all its reactors in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Since Fukushima, the country has relied heavily on imported fuel has been anything but inexpensive, making nuclear restarts increasingly attractive. However, with every step forward Japan makes, it seems like there is always two steps backwards. In an attempt to win public support, the government has implemented stricter rules, and is pressing for utilities to consider permanently closing some of the country's older reactors which have higher safety hurdles than the rest. That being said, the eruption of Mount Ontake over the weekend, has once again sparked concerns over the safety of restarting the nuclear facility. On Monday, the Japanese government issued a statement explaining that the Sendai nuclear reactor is in an entirely separate volcanic area from Mount Ontake. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said a news conference that Mount Ontake was "a steam-driven (eruption) and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict," Opposing views? With public opposition still high, the eruption of Mount Ontake sparked a protest in Kagoshima, on the island of Kyushu, at the site of the Sendai nuclear facility. According to RT.com, Yoshitaka Mukohara, a protester gathered the Kagoshima rally argued that "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." Contrary to public belief, Suga doesn't foresee the need for a careful assessment of the Sendai plant, stating that it is unlikely that a "major" volcanic event will occur during the reactor's lifespan. Mukohara, however, remained unconvinced, noting that that Mount Sakurajima, a volcano located about 50 kilometers from the Sendai reactor was emitting plumes of smoke over the weekend.
While at the onset the volcano's activity seems quite daunting. However, Reuters notes that Sakurajima experiences hundreds of small eruptions per year. Meanwhile, there are also five calderas, crater-like depressions in the regions from past eruptions, the closest of which is only 40 kilometers from the Sendai plant.Overall, the government maintains that the risks or restarting Sendai are small and that more importantly, restarting the country's nuclear reactors is necessary to provide cheaper energy for the cash-strapped Asian country. The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave the final safety approval to Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai nuclear station in southwestern Japan on September 10. While the two-reactor plant still needs to pass operational safety checks, and win approval of local authorities, the plant could be Japan's first nuclear power station to reopen since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. If the reactor can clear the remaining hurdles, it could restart in early 2015. Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned. Related Reading:
Two Japanese Reactors Receive Preliminary ApprovalVolcanic Eruption No Issue for Nuclear Restart in Japan from Uranium Investing News