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4 radiation protection shelters near Ikata nuke plant located in landslide risk areas

Four of seven facilities within 30 kilometers of Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata Nuclear Power Plant that are designed to protect people against radiation in the event of a serious nuclear accident stand in landslide risk areas, it has emerged.

    One of the four facilities, moreover, is located in an area requiring special precautions against landslides, facing a higher risk of damage.

    Work is underway to resume operation of the No. 3 reactor at the nuclear plant, which lies on the narrow Sadamisaki Peninsula, but if a nuclear disaster triggered by an earthquake or some other event were to occur in tandem with landslides in the area, it could render the facilities useless as indoor shelters.

    The development of such facilities advanced in the wake of the meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as a means to provide temporary shelter from radiation to people unable to flee immediately, such as those requiring medical assistance. The facilities are placed within a 30-kilometer radius of nuclear power plants, and if certain conditions are met, the government subsidizes the entire maintenance cost.

    In the Ehime Prefecture town of Ikata, the town and prefectural governments and a social welfare corporation developed seven facilities to be used as shelters by renovating existing facilities and building new ones at a combined cost of about 738 million yen. All of them are made of reinforced concrete, and they are equipped with filters and other devices to block radioactive materials.

    Of these seven facilities, three medical clinics in the Kucho, Seto and Kushi areas, and "Seto Aiju," a welfare facility for the aged run by the social welfare corporation Aijukai, are located in landslide caution areas. The Kushi area also happens be a special caution zone for landslides.

    The Kucho and Seto Aiju facilities are at risk of being struck by mudslides, the Kushi facility is on a slope and could collapse, and the Seto medical clinic is said to face both dangers. According to the prefectural government, three other facilities currently not in landslide caution areas -- "Tsuwabukiso," a facility for the elderly; Ehime Prefectural Misaki High School; and Ikata Central Public Hall -- could be zoned into caution areas following future surveys.

    Development of the four facilities was decided after the designation of the caution zones. They were picked by the Ikata town government and the prefectural government approved the selections.

    "We considered the risk of mudslides, but medical clinics have doctors and beds, and we thought they were desirable as evacuation destinations," a town representative said. A Seto Aiju official, meanwhile, commented, "We didn't know about the caution zone."

    A representative of the prefectural government's nuclear safety division said the town's options were limited. "There were no other appropriate places, so we thought it couldn't be helped," the representative said.

    The Cabinet Office, which is proceeding with the development of shelters to protect people against radiation from nuclear disasters, has envisaged multiple perils, such as a nuclear disaster and a major earthquake occurring at the same time, and has imposed conditions for the provision of government subsidies. Current quake resistance standards must be met, for example, and they must have a low chance of being flooded in the event of a tsunami. However, it has not implemented restrictions based on the threat of mudslides, on the grounds that if landslide caution zones were omitted there would be nowhere left to build the facilities.

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