Threats of large tsunami spur new nuclear safety guidelines

March 02, 2012

A government panel has drafted new safety guidelines for nuclear power plants, significantly expanding measures to deal with giant tsunami.

It is still unclear, however, how the new guidelines will be received once a new government agency overseeing the safety of nuclear facilities is established in April.

The draft proposal was presented by a subcommittee headed by Kojiro Irikura, a visiting professor of seismology at Aichi Institute of Technology, at the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan.

It calls for measures to prepare for catastrophic earthquakes and tsunami that strike not only areas near nuclear plants in Japan but also in other parts of the world.

The subcommittee has worked on the revision of the 2006 safety guidelines since July in response to the severe accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The accident followed the loss of all power sources after the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami, reaching 15 meters in height, hit the nuclear facility on March 11.

The panel took into account the fact that nuclear facilities in Japan had been prepared for only limited-scale earthquakes and tsunami.

Under existing safety guidelines, only two lines address the threat posed by tsunami.

The draft proposal calls for measures to deal with potentially extremely large tsunami and includes steps to protect facilities from being swamped as well as ways to secure cooling water.

It also considered tsunami caused by volcanic eruptions and massive landslides.

Operators of nuclear power plants have been asked to calculate the potential scale of quakes and tsunami that could hit their regions after determining the underground geological structure beneath their facilities.

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Tsunami waves flood the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Tsunami waves flood the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

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  • Tsunami waves flood the premises of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11. (Provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

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