Estimating time to evacuate after nuclear accident behind schedule

Efforts to estimate the time required to evacuate from within 30 kilometers of a nuclear power plant in the event of a major accident are behind schedule in half of the affected prefectures, according to a Kyodo News survey.

Local governments lying within a 30-km radius of a nuclear power plant are supposed to estimate the length of time needed for residents to get to safe locations if an evacuation is ordered. They are supposed to use the estimates to pinpoint crossings where congestion is likely in order to coordinate evacuation routes.

But the effort is behind schedule in 11 of the 21 prefectures with affected communities, Kyodo News found. The state-led effort was suppose to be completed by March last year, but it has taken more time than expected to obtain data necessary to make the estimates, according to officials who responded to Kyodo inquiries.

In five of the 11 prefectures -- Fukui, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki and Kagoshima -- there are communities located within a 30-km radius of at least one nuclear power plant undergoing government safety review to obtain permission to restart.

For example in Kagoshima, nuclear regulators recently decided to prioritize the safety review of two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear power plant.

A Kagoshima prefectural government official said the local government plans to unveil soon, possibly by the end of this month, its estimate of the time required by residents living within a 30-km radius of the Sendai plant to evacuate to safety.

The other six prefectures are Aomori, Fukushima, Niigata, Shizuoka, Tottori and Shimane.