10:14am

Mon May 9, 2011
The Two-Way

Japanese Utility Closes Nuclear Plant To Build Better Tsunami Defense

Chubu Electric Power will suspend nuclear production at its Hamaoka plant south of Tokyo to build a seawall. Last Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked the utility to stop nuclear production there, because the plant lies atop a fault line and just off the Pacific Ocean.

There was no damage to the Hamaoka plant during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March, unlike the devastated Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, north of Tokyo. But Kan worried Hamaoka might not escape harm in a future quake and took the extraordinary step of urging Chubu directors to shutter the plant to forestall a nuclear crisis.

Now Chubu operators say they'll build a 40-foot high seawall that stretches over a mile, strengthen water resistance within the plant and put in backup generators, according to AP. All are steps that might have lessened damage at the wrecked Fukushima complex. The Chubu utility expects to take at least two years to complete the work.

Kyodo News says the shutdown means even less electricity for Tokyo, where power demands are high following the disaster. The Los Angeles Times says Chubu has enough electricity supplies to get through the summer. But several major Japanese industries rely on abundant output from the Hamaoka plant, such as Toyota. Sixteen million people in central Japan also use power derived from the nuclear plant. Even with savings from energy conservation, if the summer is hot, electricity supplies may soon grow short. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.