First disaster drill since Fukushima crisis begins at Kagoshima nuke plant

October 11, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

SATSUMASENDAI, Kagoshima Prefecture--The Sendai nuclear plant, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., began carrying out a disaster management training exercise on Oct. 11, the first such drill since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident unfolded.

A total of about 3,300 individuals will take part in the two-day training exercise. In addition to local residents, officials from about 130 government institutions, including members of the prime minister's office, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, local governments, the police and Self-Defense Forces, will also participate.

The training exercise is to differ drastically from ones held prior to the meltdowns in three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Past drills were criticized as being ineffective because participants were told beforehand what would happen in the simulated exercise, and they reacted according to a prearranged script. This was due, in part, to belief in the safety myth that said critical accidents would never occur at Japanese nuclear plants.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident, the central government vastly reviewed the framework for disaster management at nuclear plants. A major change was expanding the range of the area where intensified disaster management measures had to be taken from a radius of between eight and 10 kilometers from a nuclear plant to a radius of 30 km.

For this year's training exercise, residents living within the 30-km radius will take part in an evacuation drill for the first time.

The exercise on Oct. 11 began at 10 a.m. under the simulated conditions of an earthquake with an intensity of upper 6 on the Japanese scale of 7 striking an area near the Sendai nuclear plant, causing the No. 2 reactor to automatically shut down.

Shortly after noon, another simulated condition was added--the loss of all electricity to the plant due to an aftershock.

At the Kagoshima prefectural nuclear disaster management center, located about 11 km east of the nuclear plant, simulated news video reporting on the earthquake was broadcast on a large monitor. Prefectural government officials working at the center were busy handling the various pieces of information that came in from Kyushu Electric Power, including the automatic shutdown of the reactor and the outbreak of a fire at the plant.

Past training exercises were criticized for not preparing officials for dealing with the real thing.

The Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission said in its report, "The training exercise cannot be said to have been effective."

In response to that criticism, the latest exercise was changed so that many participants were not informed in detail about what would unfold. Unexpected situations were created by simulating that measures prepared beforehand failed to function properly. The training was expected to help participants develop the ability to deal with an ever-changing situation.

The evacuation drill involving local residents will be held on Oct. 12.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Officials at the Kagoshima prefectural nuclear disaster management center in Satsumasendai deal with various information that comes in during a training exercise held on Oct. 11. (Tadashi Mizowaki)

Officials at the Kagoshima prefectural nuclear disaster management center in Satsumasendai deal with various information that comes in during a training exercise held on Oct. 11. (Tadashi Mizowaki)

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  • Officials at the Kagoshima prefectural nuclear disaster management center in Satsumasendai deal with various information that comes in during a training exercise held on Oct. 11. (Tadashi Mizowaki)

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