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Japanese PM joins nuclear plant accident drill

JAPAN – (ANN/JAPAN NEWS) – A three-day drill which began Friday assumed a powerful earthquake with an epicentre in the ocean off Niigata Prefecture had caused the cooling system for the reactors to stop at the plant, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida participated online and initiated the drill on Saturday by issuing a directive during a video conference between the Prime Minister’s Office and the prefectural and relevant municipal governments and other entities.

“A declaration of a nuclear emergency has been issued,” Kishida said. “It is most important to quickly bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of local residents. I want all relevant organisations to work together closely.”

Continuing from the first day, ships and a helicopter were deployed to perform a simulated evacuation of local residents in order to confirm steps to be taken in case of an emergency.

Once the emergency was declared, residents within a 5-kilometre radius of the nuclear power plant in a so-called Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ) began preparing for evacuation. A drill was held to evacuate residents by boat from Kashiwazaki’s Central Beach with the assumption that the earthquake had made roads impassable.

An air-cushioned landing craft of the Maritime Self-Defence Force (SDF) arrived on the beach, and residents filed onto the vessel under the guidance of SDF personnel. They then transferred to a transport ship waiting offshore that took them to the Port of Naoetsu in the neighbouring city of Joetsu. From there, the residents were taken by bus inland to Myoko.

About 270 residents of Kashiwazaki and another 110 from Kariwa, all living within the PAZ, participated in Saturday’s drill. In addition to the boats, an SDF helicopter, private cars and other means of transportation were used in the evacuation.

Local residents board a Maritime Self-Defense Force air-cushioned landing craft during Saturday’s disaster drill on Kashiwazaki Central Beach in Niigata Prefecture. PHOTO: ANN/THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN