It was not only Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant to get damaged by the earthquake and the following tsunami but also Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant of Tohoku Electric Power Company was. Onagawa Plant is in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The towns in Onagawa have been also flattened by the quake and the tsunami. Luckily, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant stopped automatically after the earthquake unlike Fukushima, but the government has already tried to resume operation at the plant, while the local residents are too busy putting their lives back in order to think about it. This is an article on the Chunichi on June 23. I’ll translate it in English below.
Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture is rich with nature and a beauty spot, where you often see wild deer as its name suggests. Oshika means male deer. Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant is built along the coast. All the villages on the coast were damaged by the tsunami, and some of them were wiped out. A civil servant at the age of 60, who was praying at the remaining shrine on a hill, said, “My house is almost dilapidated. I’m now living in a part of its remaining second floor without electricity and running water,” and looked down at the ground. “I can’t even think about the nuclear power plant in this situation,” he added.
That day, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was also hit by the big tsunami. It didn’t have a serious damage unlike Fukushima’s, and Tohoku Electric Power Company says that it is because all of its safety measures worked. But it might nothing but sheer luck. In fact, the earthquake shorted circuit the high-voltage power supply at the first reactor and caused a fire there. Because of that, one of the two emergency diesel generators was impossible to be used. In addition, the second reactor is built nearer the coast than the first one, and its heat exchanging room at the reactor building was flooded. That is why one of the two emergency generators was broken there, too. Moreover, the fuel oil storage tank was destroyed by the tsunami, and the water of the spent fuel pools of the first to the third reactors overflowed by the quake. There were damages above in Onagawa Plant, but a serious “accident” didn’t occur because it could use the external power supply. The height of the tsunami which hit Onagawa Plant was about 13 meters. The expected height was 9.1 meters tops before the quake. The reason why the plant didn’t have a big damage seems that it is located 14.8 meters above sea level.
Before fixing the emergency generators, another big earthquake hit the area on April 7th. One of the five lines of the external power supply was being checked and three of them were broken by the quake. They had to operate the facility with only one line. It was a tightrope. That tsunami has also broken four of the eleven monitoring stations for checking radiation dose near the plant. The Nuclear Off-Site Center about 8 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant in Onagawa and Prefectural Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center were also flattened. The monitoring center was about 400 meter away from the coast, and was swept away to the sea. They lost two of their staff. Other three including the head are still missing at the office of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
The Mayor of Onagawa Nobutaka Azumi and The City Mayer of Ishinamaki Hiroshi Kameyema are taking a forward-looking stance for resumption of operation of the nuclear power plant, saying “After carefully checking the safety,” meanwhile, the governor of Miyagi Prefecture Yoshihiro Murai says, “It’s unacceptable until the government brings up a new safety criterion.” Tohoku Electric Power Company has announced in public new safety measures, such as building coastal levees and setting three big power-supply units, after the earthquake disaster. Besides, the Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda requested to resume the operation of the nuclear plant, which is having a regular check now, because its emergency safety planning was being carried out appropriately on 18th.
But most of the local people can’t think about it right now. They are spun out on their daily lives. They used to oppose to build the nuclear power plant around 1965 because they were afraid of the radioactive contamination. But the tide changed in 1973 when the oil shocks occurred. The government pushed people to agree dangling subsidies or finance loan when the marine fuel was escalating. After the long-term protest campaign, they decided to have the nuclear power plant in their town in 1979. The plant has brought them great benefit. Inns had many construction workers to stay, the village has received lots of subsidies, and even the gymnastic, where about 650 people are taking shelter now, was built by the subsidy. Hospitals and sports parks were also built by the money.
About 360 people evacuated to the building of Tohoku Electric Power Company just after the earthquake. Staff of the company gave them food and blankets. Refugees appreciate it, saying, “Tohoku Electric Power Company did many things to us kindly.” A man, 57, who was fired because his company had been destroyed by the quake, was afraid of the future, saying, “Onagawa depends on the nuclear power plant. If it stopped completely, our town would go into a decline.” A woman, 79, said, “We have had luxury lives due to the electric power company. We can’t say the nuclear power plant is scary at this late date.”
On the contrary, some voice concerns. A woman, whose undergraduate daughter lives in Fukushima, 55, said, “I can’t regard Fukushima as having nothing to do with us. It’s possible for Onagawa to have a similar serious accident.” A man fired by a fish processing company said, “I don’t think the nuclear power plant shouldn’t be resumed again, but it may be premature to start now.” Mr. Hiroshi Takano, a town councilor, said, “We’ve built buildings one after another with the subsidy, but the cost of maintaining them have bore down to the town. Local businesses haven’t grown up, and people have left for other places. People have become changing their opinions gradually after the accident in Fukushima, I think…”
Experts have pointed out the possibility of a major earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture in the near future. Mr. Ikuo Kusaka, a member of a civic group on the nuclear power, said, “We should inspect the earthquake disaster thoroughly at first. It’ll be possible we have to rethink of guidance depending on the analysis result.” Onagawa plant recorded the earthquake acceleration more than the government had expected. He added, “We shouldn’t talk about the resumption of operation without the local citizens while they are making efforts toward recovery from the disaster. We should discuss about it with time and care and public opinions to decide what to do.”