Story of Hamaoka
- A Visit by Chubu
Electric to the Former Chairman of the Coordination Committee
for Earthquake Prediction -
January 25, 2002
Shukan Asahi (Weekly Asahi Magazine)
Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plants are located
in the center of a focal earthquake region. The siting of
these power plants needs a drastic review. This warning by
Dr. Kiyoo Mogi, a former professor of Tokyo University, was
carried in the editorial of the Shizuoka Shinbun, a local
newspaper in Shizuoka prefecture where Hamaoka nuclear power
plants are located. Dr. Mogi is an authority on the seismology.
He used to be the chairman of Coordination Committee for Earthquake
Prediction, a government-affiliated body. Soon after the publication
of his article in the newspaper, Chubu Electric employees
in charge of this issue visited his house, anxious to provide
their explanation to Dr. Mogi.
It was December 18, 2001, when two employees
from Chubu Electric visited Mr. Mogi's house in Chiba prefecture
with a box of sweets. The two men, offering their business
cards showing the titles of manager and vice manager in a
section related to nuclear power plants construction, were
about to begin their explanation. Then Dr. Mogi started out
the conversation with a sarcastic tone. "You are the first
people from Chubu Electric I have ever met."
Dr. Mogi is the person
who pointed out the danger of the Great Tokai Earthquake in
1969, prior to anybody else in Japan. Since then, he had been
the chairman for judging the prediction of the Tokai Earthquake
and also the chairman of the Coordination Committee for Earthquake
Prediction for a long time. He is known as an authority among
the Japanese seismic society. However, Chubu Electric had
never asked his opinion in regard to the Hamaoka nuclear power
plants that were built on top of the focal region.
The events that related
came about since the two accidents in Hamaoka 1, where a pipe
was ruptured and then a leakage was found in the pressure
vessel. Responding to these accidents, Dr. Mogi concluded
that the whole nuclear energy science is losing its reliability.
Consequently, he gave the following warnings in the editorial
articles in the Shizuoka Shimbun (Shizuoka's Local Newspaper)
on Novermber 13 and December 19.
One cannot say that
the siting of Hamaoka nuclear power plants cannot be justifiable.
Currently, the Tokai
area is considered to be the area of most concern for a future
major earthquake by researchers and political administrators,
who have been taking various countermeasures. However, in
spite of this fact, the Hamaoka nuclear power plants were
built one after another as if such a situation had not existed.
Japan's safety myth
in regard to the earthquake-resistant structure was collapsed
when the highways, etc., were collapsed in the Great Hanshin
Earthquake. It would be too late if a nuclear accident took
place due to a major earthquake. We need a drastic review
on this problem.
He further commented,
"I have been concerned about the Hamaoka nuclear power plants
but while I was the chairman of the Society for Earthquake
Prediction [he retired from his post in April 2001], I was
too busy with my work on prediction of the Tokai Earthquake
and ways to release information. I came to think about the
Hamaoka issue after the two accidents, and I consider this
issue as very serious. I believe that it is my duty to continue
to speak out on this problem.
Soon after the second
editorial was issued, there was a call from Chubu Electric
to Dr. Mogi, saying. Please let us explain. The two employees
who visited Dr. Mogi made an explanation lasting nearly four
hours about the situation of investigating the cause of accidents
and the earthquake-resistance structure of Hamaoka 1. Yet,
Dr. Mogi made the following comment.
In the end, I could
not be persuaded by them on the safety of Hamaoka nuclear
power plants. There is not a single country in the world where
nuclear power plants were built on a place where an earthquake
of magnitude 7 or more could hit. Moreover, the Hamaoka nuclear
power plants are standing on top of the area where a magnitude
eight class earthquake could hit. This is just extraordinary.
When I told this to Chubu Electric employees, they whined,
But we do not have any good place for siting nuclear power
plants." They were not giving me an explanation about the
safety, but an explanation to seek my understanding for their
Indeed, Chubu Electric
had gone through a tough time introducing new nuclear power
plants. Ashihama nuclear power plants in Mie prefecture, whose
original plan came before Hamaoka, were consistently opposed
by the local people, and the plan was finally cancelled after
37 years with the submission of the "Total cancellation" by
the Mie governor, Mr. Masakiyo Kitagawa. In November last
year, there was a referendum on whether to establish a nuclear
power plant in Miyama town in Mie, but right before the referendum,
the accidents happened in Hamaoka. The opposition counted
for more than twice the support, which made an outstanding
defeat for the promoters's side.
Yet, Chubu Electric
had managed to build four nuclear power plants (currently,
a fifth one is under construction), all of which are standing
on top of the focal region of the Great Tokai Earthquake.
Meanwhile, there is
a strong assumption that the water leakage accident from Hamaoka
1 last year was caused by the aging of the plant. Hamaoka
2, which has the same design as Hamaoka 1, had its operation
suspended. It is predicted that restarting the operation of
these two plans will be quite a time ahead (Translators Note:
Recently, Chubu Electric announced that the operation of Hamaoka
2 will resume in a few months.)
Of course, the Hamaoka
nuclear power plants complied with the government's Guidelines
for Inspecting the Standard of Earthquake Resistance Design,
established in 1981. Hamaoka 1 and 2, which were built before
the establishment of the guidelines were examined in accordance
with them. The Japanese government, as well as Chubu Electric,
sought the experts opinions of experts in the fields of seismology
and seismic engineering. Accordingly, Chubu Electric makes
the following assertion.
Hamaoka nuclear power
plants have a design sufficient for earthquake resistance.
Of course this is based on the assumption that the Great Tokai
Earthquake will occur. We haven't sought Dr. Mogi's opinion,
but we have complied with the standard made by the top experts
in their fields, so we are not concerned." (Statement made
by Nuclear Control Division of Chubu Electric)
However, Dr. Mogi refused
this as follows:
You insist that Hamaoka
can resist the Great Tokai Earthquake, but the seismology
in use when the guideline was established is now obsolete,
and the current seismology is much more advanced. Not only
that, but in many cases, we cannot predict natural phenomena.
In particular, a magnitude 8 class earthquake occuring in
Tokai area would have many unknown aspects, and we suppose
that there would be unexpected earthquake motions and a high
probability of crust deformation. We cannot accept any unexpected
event in any nuclear power plants, and these nuclear power
plants are standing on the area where a gigantic earthquake
is expected to occur. Therefore, isn't it a reasonable idea
that we stop these nuclear power plants? In this way, the
authority of the seismology is saying that unexpected events
When Dr. Mogi was talking
with the staff from Chubu Electric, he asked then the following
question: Why didn't you come to see me for my opinion even
for a single time? Then the following answer came back, we
do not know what the situation was in those days, but the
former staff in charge of this issue might have thought that
they would be rejected by you if they had asked for your opinion
in regard to the siting.
When Dr. Mogi was the
chairman of the Communication for Earthquake Prediction Society,
he negotiated with the National Land Agency and the Meteorological
Agency regarding the warning issued by the government on prediction
for the Tokai Earthquake, insisting, A warning of black or
white is not sufficient. We also need precautionary information.
Then, in March 1996, he resigned as chairman saying, I cannot
be confident on issuing a predicative information under the
current system, expressing his critical view of the government
system of earthquake prediction.
Dr. Mogi is the type
of demanding scholar who cannot be welcomed by the government
officials. Being aware of that himself, he continued, If they
say that they didnt ask for my opinions since I was likely
to oppose the plan, that means they only asked scholars who
always say yes to the government, doesnt it? In regard to
the Great Tokai Earthquake, the earthquake prediction and
the safety of Hamaoka nuclear power plants are such grave
issues, but seismologists never make any comment as if they
regard these issues as taboo. However, when I talked to researchers
in private, many did say, What Dr. Mogi says is all correct.
Yet Chubu Electric said,
We will continue to ask Dr. Mogi to listen to our explanation
until he understands our points.
It is not only Dr. Mogi
who insists on the dangers of the Hamaoka nuclear power plants
in relation to the Great Tokai Earthquake.
Ishibashi at Kobe University (57), who is also a member of
the special Investigation Committee for the Tokai Earthquake in
the Conference for Central Governments Disaster Prevention,
warned of Genpatsu Shinsai-nuclear disaster caused by earthquake
in 1997. He pointed out that nuclear power plants in Japan,
particularly Hamaoka, would not withstand gigantic earthquakes,
which will result in a total catastrophe. After making his
theory public, he visited Hamaoka nuclear power plants and
listened to the explanations made by Chubu Electric, but Prof.
Ishibashi said, I have never been persuaded by Chubu Electric.
Little by little, more
scholars of seismology, physics and other fields have come
to point out the danger of nuclear power plants in relation
to earthquakes. Maybe it is a good idea to establish a group
such as, a Society of Scholars Concerned about Genpatsu Shinsai, with
Dr. Mogi as our head."