What Will You Do If Mt Fuji Erupts?

We mostly tend to think of sustainability in terms of short-term targets, like will there be butter in the supermarket or gas for the car - tomorrow. We wish companies to have CSR reports and countries to abide by global environmental protocols. We call for renewable energy and less waste. But, will I ever get a pension? Too bad the Earth is a little more fickle than that. Tsunamis, thunderstorms, ice caps melting, species and biodiversity in dire straits. You name it. An economic meltdown is nothing to the powers of this amazing, lovely planet we live on.

Hiroki Kamata over at Kyoto University makes this point very well. His best-selling book about Mt Fuji, published by Kodansha, explores what could happen if this terrific volcano has another eruption, like it did just 300 years ago, in 1708. Fuji-san is near enough Tokyo to be seen on a clear day, and the beautiful shape has inspired many painters, wood block printers and photographers. Dr Kamata notes that an eruption could seriously disrupt global internet services, and economic transactions. Yes, we are all in it together now.
Mount Fuji, with its "exceptionally symmetrical cone" is Japan's highest mountain, but that is probably only due to its latest eruption:

The last recorded eruption started on December 16, 1707 (Hōei 4, 23rd day of the 11th month) and ended about January 1, 1708.

For weeks, Edo, as the capital of Japan was then called, experienced a thick smog of volcanic ash and smoke. Dr Kamata also points out that the ash, lava flow, and the entire picture of violence such as pyroclastic flow, and how the mountain body collapsed should be used for the prevention of future disasters, using the method of hazard maps. At any rate, a Fuji eruption would probably stop Japan in its tracks, at least for a while, with major consequences around the world.

The fact that this was published by Kodansha Ltd., Japan's largest book publishing company, is a hint that people are indeed taking Dr Kamata seriously.

And just this weekend, it was announced that two of Japan's oldest nuclear reactors, in Hamaoka southwest of Tokyo, will probably be dismantled. They have been idle for a long time due to safety concerns, and anti-nuclear groups and NGOs have demanded that they should be shut down. In case of a major earthquake, these old reactors have increasingly been identified as major hazards for the 20-30 or so million people living in Tokyo.

Japan Offspring Fund has noted that:

Of all the 52 active nuclear reactors in Japan experts agree that the 5 reactors in Hamaoka are the most dangerous. Hamaoka sits directly over a subduction zone near the junction of two tectonic plates. The ground is not solid rock, but sand. This area is in fact overdue for a major earthquake.

Japan Offspring Fund: Nuclear Safety Issues

Another NGO, the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, an anti-nuclear public interest organization dedicated to securing a safe, nuclear-free world, wants all reactors at Hamaoka to be closed.

According to NHK World, Chubu Electric Power Company is considering whether or not to decommission the number 1 and 2 nuclear reactors at its power plant:

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant in the City of Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, has 5 nuclear reactors. The number one reactor went into service in 1976. However, it was shutdown in 2001 after a rupture of a pipe connected to the emergency cooling system of the reactor core. The number 2 reactor was shutdown in 2004 to allow earthquake resistance improvements.

Dismantling nuclear power plants is very expensive, time consuming, and part of the reason why many environmentalists are so reluctant to consider nuclear power. In a country with so many earthquakes, is this a sustainable way to provide electricic power?

NHK World: Dismantling nuclear reactors under consideration

Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Energy | Japan | One Planet Living