September 29, 2014 / 3:30 AM / 5 years ago

Japan's Suga says volcanic eruption has no impact on nuclear restart

TOKYO (Reuters) - The deadly eruption of a volcano in Japan over the weekend will not affect the restart of the Sendai nuclear reactor, which is in a separate volcanically active area, the country’s top government spokesman said on Monday.

Mount Ontake erupted on Saturday, with four confirmed dead and serious injuries to at least 40 people.

“This was a steam-driven (eruption) and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Asked whether the eruption would require careful assessment of the restart at Sendai, Suga said, “I don’t think so.”

Japan’s nuclear regulator on Sept. 10 approved the restart of the Sendai nuclear power station in the country’s southwest, the first step to reopening an industry that has been idle since the Fukushima disaster. The government is still pushing for the permanent closure of older reactors.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has said that the chance of “major” volcanic activity during the lifespan of Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant was negligible.

The plant, some 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Tokyo, lies in a region of active volcanic sites. Sendai, at the southern end of the island of Kyushu, is 50 km (31 miles) from Sakurajima, a volcano that experiences hundreds of small eruptions a year.

Five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, are also in the region, the closest one just 40 km (25 miles) from the Sendai plant.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Tom Hogue

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