Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Thursday, 19 July 2007 10:57 UK

Japanese worried about nuclear safety

The fire at the Kashiwazaki plant was put out after several hours
The Kashiwazaki power plant is now closed for further inspections

An earthquake earlier this week in northern Japan caused a nuclear plant to leak a small amount of radioactive material, prompting safety concerns.

BBC News website users in Japan express their views on the accident, and how worried they are about further nuclear accidents as a result of seismic activity.


Katsumi Ichimura
Me and my wife were very angry when we heard radio reports about the fire
I live in Nagaoka, some 50km away from the nuclear plant. At the time the earthquake struck, I was at a mountain playground in Kashiwazaki city with my family for a short break.

Everyone at the playground was calm even though the shaking lasted 20 seconds. Nobody, not even the kids, were screaming. We are all too familiar with earthquakes.

This time though, for the first time, we heard about a nuclear leak at the power plant as a result of the earthquake. When me and my wife heard on the radio about the fire there we were very angry.

Safety should be the most important thing for a nuclear facility, and it has become clear that it's not strong enough to withstand an earthquake. A nuclear power station should have more strict regulations.

The company [Tepco] said that there had been a mistake calculating the radioactive level of water that leaked. That in itself is worrying, and people in the area have started to fear about its safety.

They say that the leak is not dangerous, but I don't believe that. I think the government should scrutinise this vigorously and make sure that nuclear power plants have a robust structure, so that accidents don't happen.


Toe Nakata
Toe Nakata: People here always talk about nuclear safety
We are having more and stronger earthquakes each year, so it is quite possible that we would have such kind of accidents in the future. Earthquakes cannot be avoided, they are the force of nature. But nuclear leaks could.

Because of that, nuclear power plants need to be checked very regularly to make sure that they won't fail us at a crucial moment. This is a government project and it is the government's responsibility to make that safety a priority.

It's my feeling that they generally do, but the fact that there was a leak shows that more could have been done to prevent it.

We always talk about the issue of nuclear safety, because we have experienced the consequences of the nuclear bomb. But to be honest, right now, people are much more interested to hear about the destruction of the earthquake and how the survivors are coping.


Destruction at a field near Kashiwazaki
Kashiwazaki suffered worst damage (Photo: Prof Tsuyoshi Uda, Niigata University)
I don't think there is any reason to worry. If there was some real danger, the district would be closed and no one would be able to enter it. Now everyone can go there, and people don't even talk about it.

The Japanese government is very cautious all the time. During any construction work you can read big signs saying 'Safety is number one'.

And even though there's been a leak, I am sure everything is fine. Everyone is talking about the earthquake without mentioning that leak. No one cares about this news, apart from foreign media. And a lot of students are visiting earthquake area for field work without any worries.


Usui Ritsuro
There should be a campaign to raise awareness
Of course I am worried about nuclear safety. But there's not much awareness about this issue in Japan. The media here don't cover it much, and people don't talk about it. I got worried after reading foreign news coverage, where nuclear safety seems to be the main story after the earthquake.

I feel that people are unconsciously controlled by what the media and the authorities tell them. The nuclear leak has been played down, probably because it's a too thorny issue to tackle ahead of the elections. After all, the media is loyal to the authorities.

I am worried, especially, that it has recently transpired that many nuclear problems from the 1980s and 1990s have been hidden from the public. During May and June, they were talking a lot about nuclear safety. And suddenly, when they should address the issue properly, they've stopped talking about it.

First they said that that there was a small leak and there's nothing to worry about. Then they admitted that the leak is actually a bit bigger. How can we trust them now?

The thing is that if a big accident happens, that won't just be Japan's problem. Neighbouring countries like Korea and China might well be affected. And we are talking about the safety of millions of people.

Many journalists are afraid to be seen as anti-government, but I think it's important that they start a campaign to raise awareness of this danger.


Damaged road in Kashiwazaki
Roads were damaged (Photo: Prof Tsuyoshi Uda, Niigata University)
Taking into account the small problems at the power plant, caused by an average earthquake, I guess that a stronger earthquake could be catastrophic, with good reasons to worry about nuclear safety.

This leak is below the dangerous level and everything is safe now. After such an earthquake we are not expecting more powerful aftershocks. The aftershocks we are awaiting won't be stronger than magnitude 5.5. So I think for the time being we can sleep well.

But there is a questions remaining: What if a powerful earthquake hits the wrong place?

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