TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 56 (No. 8), pp. li-lxvi, 2004

Research News

Two grave issues concerning the expected Tokai Earthquake

Kiyoo Mogi

University of Tokyo, Japan

(Received November 7, 2003; Revised June 29, 2004; Accepted June 30, 2004)

Abstract: The possibility of a great shallow earthquake (M 8) in the Tokai region, central Honshu, in the near future was pointed out by Mogi in 1969 and by the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction (CCEP), Japan (1970). In 1978, the government enacted the Large-Scale Earthquake Countermeasures Law and began to set up intensified observations in this region for short-term prediction of the expected Tokai earthquake. In this paper, two serious issues are pointed out, which may contribute to catastrophic effects in connection with the Tokai earthquake: 1. The danger of black-and-white predictions: According to the scenario based on the Large-Scale Earthquake Countermeasures Law, if abnormal crustal changes are observed, the Earthquake Assessment Committee (EAC) will determine whether or not there is an imminent danger. The findings are reported to the Prime Minister who decides whether to issue an official warning statement. Administrative policy clearly stipulates the measures to be taken in response to such a warning, and because the law presupposes the ability to predict a large earthquake accurately, there are drastic measures appropriate to the situation. The Tokai region is a densely populated region with high social and economic activity, and it is traversed by several vital transportation arteries. When a warning statement is issued, all transportation is to be halted. The Tokyo capital region would be cut off from the Nagoya and Osaka regions, and there would be a great impact on all of Japan. I (the former chairman of EAC) maintained that in view of the variety and complexity of precursory phenomena, it was inadvisable to attempt a black-and-white judgment as the basis for a "warning statement". I urged that the government adopt a "soft warning" system that acknowledges the uncertainty factor and that countermeasures be designed with that uncertainty in mind. 2. The danger of nuclear power plants in the focal region: Although the possibility of the occurrence of a great shallow earthquake in the Tokai region was pointed out by CCEP in 1970, soon after, plans for construction of a nuclear power plant started in this region. Since 1976, Hamaoka nuclear power plants (Units 1∼4) have been operating near the center of the expected focal region of the great Tokai earthquake, and Unit 5 is under construction. This is quite a dangerous situation.
Key words: Tokai, Earthquake Countermeasures Law, precursory phenomena, black-and-white prediction, soft warning, Hamaoka nuclear power plant, man-made disaster.

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