An aerial view of the crater on top of Mt. Sakurajima in Kagoshima

Possible volcanic eruption 'not impacting' nuclear restart

The owner of a recently restarted nuclear reactor in Japan says it does not need to take any special precautions over the possibility of a nearby volcano erupting.

The reactor at Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai plant was restarted last week - the first since new safety standards were put in place after the meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011 - but it is situated just 50km from the volcano Sakurajima.

It is one of Japan's most active volcanoes, erupting almost constantly, and an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency warned on Saturday that there was a risk of larger than usual eruption in the near future.

The agency raised their warning level for the volcano to an unprecedented 4 - for prepare to evacuate - and 77 residents who live within a 3 km radius of the craters have already evacuated following an advisory issued by the city of Kagoshima, a city official said today.

However, Kyushu Electric spokesman Tomomitsu Sakata said that the warning had not impacted on operations at the Sendai plant.

"We are not currently taking any particular response," he said. "We will continue to pay close attention to information from the Japan Meteorological Agency."

The 890MW reactor had reached 50 per cent of its output by Sunday and the operator expects full power to be achieved around August 24, Sakata said.

However, critics of the nuclear industry say that new safety measures introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to get the industry up and running again are insufficient, particularly for plants like Sendai located near volcanoes.

The precautions by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority for volcanic eruptions were "wanting in a number of important respects" and did not meet international standards, said John Large, chief executive of Large & Associates, a nuclear engineering consultancy.

Large wrote a report this year on the Sendai plant's ability to withstand being hit by volcanic ash and has testified in court about the issue.

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