Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Nuclear Fun

The list of things that Fukui is famous for is a very short one
indeed. Crabs is one of them (the crustaceans, not the STD). Rice is
another. The prefecture also proudly boasts to be the location of 90%
of the eyeglass frame manufacturing industry in Japan. Yes, it's that
exciting here.

Fukui is also home to a number of large nuclear reactors. To be
precise, 15 reactors out of a total of around 50 across the whole of
Japan. Now, at this point your thoughts are probably going something
like this: "Wow, crabs, glasses and nuclear power plants! Honey, pack
your things, we're moving to Fukui - I wanna see the giant
bespectacled mutant nuclear crabs!!!!". Well, let me assure you there
are NO giant mutant nuclear crabs. The power plants happen to be
extremely safe: there was only one major accident last year, and only
four people died. So nothing to worry about then.

The circumstances surrounding that accident were unbelieveable: a
steam pipe burst at the Mihama plant because it had totally rusted
through. Apparently it hadn't been checked for corrosion since the
plant was opened........ 27 years ago. Worse still, it wasn't even the
first time that a steam-related incident had occured at that plant,
since in 1991 a pipe burst, causing the release of radiation, though
luckily no-one died.

Recently, the Fukui governor agreed to reopen the fast breeder reactor
in Tsuruga, which was closed after a fatal sodium leak in 1995. The
Japanese government is keen to see the reactor reopen, since the kind
of plutonium it creates is essential for the government's nuclear
waste reprocessing policy. In exchange for reopening the plant, the
governor has been promised that the shinkansen (bullet train) line
will be extended into Fukui. So at least we'll be able to get out of
the prefecture quickly if there's another radiation leak.

Still, at least the tourist board is able to see the humour in the
situation. When I was motoring around the south of Fukui last week I
came across a tourist map near the little town of Oi (pronounced
"oiyee"). As well as showing the locations of all the local beaches
and campsites, it featured a cartoony picture of the local nuclear
power plant, complete with smiling face.

And three eyes.

Are they trying to tell us something? Maybe the giant crab stories are
true after all...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you go hunt for those big mutant crabs.

6:10 am  

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