World of Pokémon Day #16 – Power Plant/Tokai Nuclear Power Plant

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An hour away from Tsuchiura by train is the village of Tokai, an ordinary spot with not much in the way of excitement going on. However along the coast of this village stands one of the most important facilities in Modern Japan, the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant. It’s this particular plant that is counterpart to the once abandoned Power Plant hidden along Route 10 in the Kanto region. In actuality the Tokai plant today seems to match both the deserted Red and Blue, and the fully functioning Gold and Silver Power Plant within the games.
Commissioned in 1966, The Tokai Nuclear Power Plant was once home to two major reactors but today neither are actually functioning. One was dismantled a few years ago but the other is in debate still as to what it’s fate shall be. As many will likely remember, in 2011 Japan was devastated by the Tokohu Earthquake and Tsunami, seen as the biggest calamity the country has had to face since the losses in World War II. During this incident the nuclear plant in Fukushima was badly damaged, resulting in a big nuclear disaster. While no deaths have been linked to the incident and the surrounding area has been declared safe, the entire plant has been decommissioned and seemingly never to be used again. Tokai however was more fortunate during the Earthquake. The remaining reactor shut itself down automatically and thus no similar incident occurred. But the reactor remains shut off even today with debates as to whether to bring it back into operation still ongoing. It lies dormant at the moment, like the Power Plant from the early Pokémon games.
However there is much still ongoing at the plant and it’s clear from our visit today, there’s still hope for this source of energy yet. Nuclear energy is used to power around a 1/3 of Modern Japan; the country lacks the natural resources that allows other nations to not have to depend on this controversial type of energy. The Japanese won’t give up on it and it’s clear from one particular exhibit in the nearby museum that it takes any and every precaution necessary to avoid another incident.
The exhibit in question is in the Tokai Science Museum of Atomic Energy which sits opposite one of fhe plant’s main entrances. Admission is free and English translations are abundant as you explore the story of Atomic energy. It houses the reactor responsible for the 30 September 1999 criticality incident that, resulted in a 20 hour evacuation and the poisoning of three workers at the plant. They were not given the understanding of the process they were taking part in, given too much uranium at once to put into a reactor that was too small to contain it; it does not reflect well on the JCO company at the time. Sadly the radiation exposure the workers received resulted in two of the three dying shortly after of radiation poisoning. It’s a sad tale but the museum displays it as a memory of how serious this energy is, but also that they won’t give up on it and instead learn from past failings. Nowadays they have 50 stationary radiation monitors in the immediate area and 60 more mobile ones to boot. It certainly feels safe these days and with establishments such such as the Ibaraki Quantom Beam Research Centre on the doorstep, advancement of this energy is still in the minds of the people.
Ultimately we didn’t expect to find anything in Tokai and while we didn’t get up close to the plant, we did find much to be interested by right on its doorstep. On certain days the museum runs a free bus service (pre-booking only) that takes visitors around all the facilities open to the public. If you’re interested in Atomic Energy or you just like a little bit of science every now and again it’s certainly a place worth the visit. Just make sure you get the bus because it’s quite a long walk from Tokai train station!

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