Despite Worrisome Volcano Warning, Nuclear Restart Approved for Japanese Plant

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Despite Worrisome Volcano Warning, Nuclear Restart Approved for Japanese Plant

Local decision comes as scientific authorities caution that increased seismic activity may indicate possible eruption

A Japanese government handout from the eruption of Mt. Ontake, which erupted last month with almost no warning. (Photo: Handout)

Despite recent warnings from seismology experts about activity at a nearby volcano, local officials in Japan have approved the first restart of a nuclear power plant since the Fukushima disaster and meltdown in 2011.

According to Reuters:

A town in southwest Japan became the first to approve the restart of a nuclear power station on Tuesday, a step forward in Japan's fraught process of reviving an industry left idled by the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.

Satsumasendai, a town of 100,000 that hosts the two-reactor Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) plant, is 1,000 km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo and has long relied on the Sendai plant for government subsidies and jobs.

Nineteen of the city's 26 assembly members voted in favor of restarting the plant while four members voted against and three abstained, a city assembly member told Reuters.

The restart of Japan's first reactors to receive clearance to restart under new rules imposed since Fukushima is unlikely until next year as Kyushu Electric still needs to pass operational safety checks.

All 48 of the country's nuclear reactors were gradually taken offline following Fukushima, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

And Newsweek reports:

... the decision comes as scientific authorities warned of increased seismic activity on the island. Volcanologists have warned that the 2011 earthquake, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, may have increased the likelihood of volcanic activity throughout the region.

Japan sits on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an area of great instability in the earth’s crust, which is home to 75% of the world’s volcanoes.

Minor tremors were reported on Friday morning and soon after, Japanese officials warned of a potential eruption and called for hikers to avoid the area, which is popular with tourists.

The Sendai plant is also situated only 31 miles from Mount Sakurajima, an extremely active volcano which erupts on a regular basis.

The documentation of new activity comes barely a month after the eruption of Mount Ontake, when 57 hikers were killed on its slopes. There were no accompanying signs of seismic activity prior to the eruption which might have alerted Japanese authorities to the impending disaster.

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