Photo/IllutrationClean air domes for evacuees to be introduced in Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, in the event of a nuclear disaster (Provided by Shikoku Electric Power Co.)

IKATA, Ehime Prefecture--A nuclear power plant operator is readying folding domes here to provide shelter for up to 600 evacuees in the event of a nuclear accident.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. said Oct. 24 that it plans to install eight clean air domes at Ikata’s three evacuation centers west of the town's nuclear power plant to protect residents from radiation.

The special shelters are expected to cost a total of 200 million yen ($1.76 million) and will be introduced by June next year.

It will be the first time for a power company to set up evacuation clean air domes in municipalities that are home to nuclear power plants, according to Shikoku Electric, although municipalities and other parties in Fukui Prefecture own such domes themselves.

The Ikata plant is situated at the root of the Sadamisaki Peninsula, which stretches east to west. Because 4,700 people live to the west of the plant, a big challenge is how to evacuate them when roads are blocked in a disaster.

In April, Shikoku Electric started considering introducing air domes to protect evacuees at temporary shelters in Ikata and began talks with Ehime Prefecture and Ikata town in late August to discuss the domes’ installation locations and total capacity as well as other topics.

The planned air domes will be made of polyester and measure 10 meters wide, 4 meters high, and 15 to 25 meters long. They will be equipped with air cleaning units that can remove more than 99 percent of radioactive materials such as cesium and iodine.

As evacuees are expected to stay in the domes for a week, they will also be furnished with toilets.

The domes can be folded into small sheets when stored, and four people can set one up in an hour, according to Shikoku Electric officials.

While three domes with a total capacity of 250 people will be introduced at the Seto Sogo gymnasium, three domes for 250 people and two domes for 100 people will also be deployed to the Misaki Sogo gymnasium and the gymnasium for Misaki elementary and junior high schools, respectively.

Those anti-radiation domes are to be set up inside the gymnasium buildings at the time of a nuclear crisis.

Maintenance and installation of the domes will be conducted by Shikoku Electric, whereas water, food and daily commodities for evacuees will be supplied by the town government.

Although the operations of the No. 2 reactor at the Ikata plant have been suspended, Koichi Tamagawa, an executive vice president of Shikoku Electric who is in charge of the Nuclear Power Division, on Oct. 24 reaffirmed the company’s intention to decide whether to restart the reactor by the end of this fiscal year.