Japan nuclear plant closing while seawall is built

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese utility agreed Monday to shutter three nuclear reactors at a coastal power plant while it builds a seawall and improves other tsunami defenses there.

Chubu Electric Power Co. acted at a special board meeting after Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the temporary shutdown at the Hamaoka plant amid concerns an earthquake magnitude 8.0 or higher could strike the central Japanese region sometime within 30 years.

The government’s decision came after evaluating Japan’s 54 reactors for quake and tsunami vulnerability after the March 11 disasters that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan. The Hamaoka facility sits above a major fault line and has long been considered Japan’s riskiest nuclear power plant.

Chubu Electric President Akihisa Mizuno described Kan’s request, which was announced on live television Friday evening, as carrying immense weight. His company’s response reflects its commitment to putting safety first, Mizuno said.

“We believe that our efforts to strengthen safety will restore trust among people in the region and society,” he said at a news conference.

The utility will shutter the No. 4 and No. 5 reactors at the plant, Mizuno said. It will also indefinitely delay a planned resumption of the No. 3 reactor, which has been shut down for regular maintenance since late last year.

The plant’s non-operating No. 1 and No. 2 reactors were slated for decommission before the disaster.

About 79,800 people live within a 6-mile radius of the Hamaoka plant about 125 miles west of Tokyo.

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