Japanese Volcano Eruption Raises Nuclear Safety Questions

Past volcanic activity at Mount Ontake

Past volcanic activity at Mount Ontake

This week’s tragic eruption of Mount Ontake, which killed up to 36 people, has reignited protests against the nuclear restart in communities near potentially volcanic mountains.

After the eruption, approximately 7,500 people in Kagoshima Prefecture took to the streets to protest the Sept. 10 Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) safety approval of Kyushu Electric’s Satsume-Sendai nuclear power plant. The protesters — among them former Prime Minister Naoto Kan — said that the failure to predict the eruption at Mount Ontake shows that the NRA did not sufficiently consider the presence of the nearby Sakurajima volcano, which is located 50 kilometers away from Satsume-Sendai.

“No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike,” said Yoshitaka Mukohara, a candidate in the 2012 Kagoshima Prefecture governor election who helped organize the protest. “The fact that they could not predict the Mount Ontake eruption highlights that… There were plumes above Sakurajima yesterday and today. We have no idea when something might happen.”

After the rally, the protesters marched through the heart of Kagoshima city, voicing their opposition to the reactor restarts and demanding an end to nuclear power generation.