March 27, 2011 / 10:31 AM / in 8 years

Japan activist warns another "nuclear quake" looms

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - The nuclear safety crisis entering its third week in Japan was not exactly the disaster that long-term activist and author Takashi Hirose foresaw in his book last summer, “Nuclear Reactor Time Bomb.”

Protesters take part in an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

But except for the location — Hirose had predicted an imminent megaquake and nuclear accident at the Hamaoka plant 200 km southwest of Tokyo, not the Fukushima Daiichi plant 240 km northeast — the scenario depicted in his first book on nuclear power in 15 years has proved eerily prescient.

Japanese authorities evacuated workers on Sunday from a reactor building they were working in after high doses of radiation were detected at a crippled nuclear power plant.

As Hirose watches what he believes is a bungled response by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which runs the plant, his fears are as strong as ever that a repeat is set to hit on the other side of the Japanese capital.

“I think it will definitely occur soon,” he said, citing geological research on earthquake cycles suggesting that a massive quake may be imminent in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka plant.

“I’ve looked at the entire country, and there’s not a single reactor that’s safe.”

Japan, at the crossroads of four tectonic plates, is the site of one-fifth of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more. The massive magnitude-9.0 quake that struck northeast Japan two weeks ago left an estimated 27,000 dead or missing and was the world’s fourth largest since 1900.

The possibility of an imminent magnitude 8-plus earthquake in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka plant was brought to the public’s attention by geologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko in the 1970s and a government report has estimated there is an 87 percent chance of such an earthquake within the next 30 years.

“The Pacific plate is moving, and we shouldn’t be expecting that the other plates are just sitting quietly,” Hirose said, in between lectures to a Tokyo citizen’s group on the Fukushima crisis and living with the threat of radiation.

Hirose, 68, a prominent anti-nuclear power activist in the 1980s who wrote prolifically on the topic and became a regular fixture on TV talk shows after the Chernobyl accident, lamented the relative lack of concern about the issue over the last decade or so.

“There’s been something wrong with Japanese media for the past 15 years,” he said.

“There used to be a time when newspaper reporters and TV would use people like me, let us have our say. I don’t know where they’ve gone. They’re not allowing the Japanese people to think.”

Now Hirose is back on TV and his book is in demand, selling out at Kinokuniya, one of the nation’s top book retailers, and Amazon’s Japan web site.

Nuclear power has come under renewed scrutiny since the Fukushima accident, and Chubu Electric Power Co, which serves central Japan including the flagship factories of Toyota Motor Co, has said it would delay construction of a new reactor at Hamaoka.

But Hirose remains on guard and hoped that overseas criticism of Japan’s nuclear programme as a result of the current crisis will help his cause.

“I’d like to see political pressure from America, and the whole world,” he said.”If they do that, the Japanese people will realize what’s going on.”

Editing by Elaine Lies

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