OMAEZAKI, Japan – At a seaside nuclear power plant, a concrete wall that stretches a mile along the shoreline and rises 73 feet above sea level offers protection against almost any tsunami imaginable. Two reactors are ready to begin splitting atoms again to heat water into steam and generate power, the operator told regulators.
However, despite the fact that the safety measures will cost almost $ 4 billion, the Hamaoka plant has not produced a single kilowatt since May 2011 and does not have a deadline to restart. The paint on the billboards is fading and an old “no trespassing” sign outside the barbed wire lies on the ground, signs of increasing neglect.
Even a local anti-nuclear leader, Katsushi Hayashi, said he spent more time these days fighting an unrelated railway line in the mountains, trusting that regulators and public opinion would not allow the plant to open anytime soon. “Fukushima gave us all the evidence we need. It’s dangerous, ”Mr. Hayashi said.
The triple collapse of the Japanese nuclear reactors in Fukushima after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami marked a turning point in an industry that once dreamed of providing the world with nearly unlimited energy.
A decade after Fukushima, only nine reactors in Japan are authorized to operate, compared to 54 a decade ago, and five of them are currently offline due to legal and other problems. All reactors in Fukushima prefecture are permanently closed or configured to do so. Chubu Electric Power Co., owner of the Hamaoka plant, declined to make an executive available for comment. It formally requested the reopening of two reactors at the plant and told regulators that new measures such as the wall, which was mainly completed in 2015, make them safe to operate.