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Japan Politics

Nuclear Disaster In Japan Could Have Been Mitigated, Say Industry Insiders 204

Posted by timothy
from the can't-plan-for-every-possibility dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Some insiders from Japan's tightly knit nuclear industry have stepped forward to say that Tepco and regulators had for years ignored warnings of the possibility of a larger-than-expected tsunami in northeastern Japan, and thus failed to take adequate countermeasures, such as raising wave walls or placing backup generators on higher ground. 'March 11 exposed the true nature of Japan's postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry, not the people,' says Shigeaki Koga, a former director of industrial policy at the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry. Eight years ago, as a member of an influential cabinet office committee on offshore earthquakes in northeastern Japan, Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo, warned that Fukushima's coast was vulnerable to tsunamis more than twice as tall as the forecasts of up to 17 feet put forth by regulators and Tepco, but government bureaucrats running the committee moved quickly to exclude his views from debate as too speculative and 'pending further research.' Then in 2008, Tepco's own engineers made three separate sets of calculations that showed Fukushima Daiichi could be hit by tsunamis as high as 50 feet. 'They completely ignored me in order to save Tepco money,' says Shimazaki."
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Nuclear Disaster In Japan Could Have Been Mitigated, Say Industry Insiders

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  • Stop being afraid of nuclear.

    Deaths per terawatt-hour for all energy sources [nextbigfuture.com]

    • by rvw (755107) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:29AM (#39317509)

      Stop being afraid of nuclear.

      Deaths per terawatt-hour for all energy sources [nextbigfuture.com]

      I live in the Netherlands. We have two nuclear powerplants here, plus a bunch of them close enough in Belgium and Germany. If one of these plants has a serious accident, it could harm millions of people. And even if it isn't a medical problem, as we might be able to move all those people to safer places, the socio-economic problems will be enormous, and the problems we're facing with Greece now will be small compared to this. Look at Japan, where they considered evacuating Tokyo last year. They didn't make this public until recently, but think about that. What if they had to leave Tokyo and stay out for the next 50 years?

      There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time.

      • by polar red (215081) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:37AM (#39317533)

        consider this : if any of these in Holland/Belgium/Germany/France have an accident on fukushima scale, the economy of about 50 million people would be destroyed; taking the rest of the world's economy down with it.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        So how many tidal waves do you have there?

        • by cryptolemur (1247988) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:11PM (#39318197)
          Oh, but people aren't allowed back to Fukushima or the surrounding area not because of the tsunami. It's because of the reactors were left without cooling too long.
          People are not allowed back to Chernobyl area because, in the end, the reactor was left wihtout cooling for too long.

          See a pattern here?

          It's not the tsunami's, or crew making 'human errors', it's the inherent nature of the reactors to go critical and melt when left without cooling. And there's more ways for that to happen than any engineer has ever imagined... even algae growth in the seawater used for the secondary system can force the engineers to shut down the reactor before they run out of cooling water...or heat wave that preheats the same water.
          So many external parameters completely out of the control of anybody.
          • by gukin (14148) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:27PM (#39319233)

            Chernobyl was and is still the worst nuclear disaster because it didn't melt down, it blew up. Reactor 4 was supposed to be used for an experiment but was shutdown before the experiment could take place. However to try the experiment, the reactor was started up without letting the Xenon-135 decay to the point were the reactor could be started safely.

            Nevertheless the reactor was started in a VERY unstable state, it soon "burned through" the Xenon-135 and the reactor power output rose to ten times it's rated limit and the containment vessel exploded, blowing fuel across the countryside. Following that, the moderator, graphite, burned spewing even more fuel into the atmosphere.

            Chernobyl was human error, avoidable but human error. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster [wikipedia.org]

            Now if there had been serious fires in the spent fuel pools at Fukushima, Chernobyl would have paled in comparison.

            • by jrumney (197329) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:06PM (#39322451) Homepage
              Fukushima isn't over yet. The spent fuel pool of reactor 4 contains a large amount of plutonium from the two reactors that were under maintenance at the time of the earthquake. The crane used to transfer fuel from the spent fuel pool was damaged in the earthquake, and scheduled to be fixed by December 2013. Meanwhile, the structure has been damaged to the point where it can now only withstand an earthquake up to magnitude 7.0. The probability of an aftershock of that magnitude occurring this year has been estimated at 70%, and within the next three years at 98%.
        • by burne (686114)

          The last one was some time ago, but it separated the UK from mainland Europe, some 8000 years ago.

          (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storegga_Slide)

      • by ductonius (705942) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:31PM (#39318277) Homepage

        All I see in your post is a bunch of "ifs", "mights" and "maybes".

        Your brain seems to be operating on nothing but ignorant fear. Proof of this is when you said: "There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time."

        Hydroelectric dam failure has already created worse disasters in a smaller amount of time. Coal slurry pond failure has also already created larger disasters in shorter periods of time. Normally operating coal plants are creating a larger disaster over a larger area over a longer period of time as we speak. Even if you count the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear energy has killed fewer people per TW/h than any other source of energy.

        You seem to show ignorance of both nuclear and conventional energy sources. Your lack of insight and understanding have created a preference for larger assured disasters that you can understand easily over smaller possible disasters that are difficult for you to understand.

        I would recommend you inform yourself and reexamine your opinions.

        • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:31PM (#39319259) Journal

          And what I see in your posts is the disingenuous use of a very incomplete picture that considers only one statistic, the number of deaths. By that measure, Hurricane Andrew was insignificant. After all, Andrew killed only 39 people, not much more than one person going postal.

          Consider instead the area of land that was rendered unfit for other uses for years. For nuclear power, that's thousands of sq km. Coal mining has been done in a reckless and damaging manner, so it could probably not be said to be zero. Then there's the contamination of groundwater by fracking. And oil spills. But we don't have to get fuel that way. For other sorts of energy, it's zero. At any time, we can remove a dam and put the flooded land back to any other use we want. You should also remember that hydroelectric generation is just one purpose of dams. They also tame floods and store water for the dry times, enabling more agriculture.

          Or consider the economic costs. What will the total cost of the Fukushima disaster be? Could be more than $1 trillion. Nuclear does not do so well on that.

          • by ductonius (705942)

            I am far more concerned with human lives than bank accounts and while I realize that the current economic system tends to make the former dependent on the latter, that is not an argument against nuclear power, it's an argument for the restructuring of global finance.

            Not all nuclear technologies are equal. Conflating the reactors at Chernobyl or Fukushima with other designs like CANDU or even Magnox which have suffered no major accidents is itself disingenuous. The only argument the anti-nuclear side has is

      • by Solandri (704621)

        If one of these plants has a serious accident, it could harm millions of people. [...] There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time.

        Obviously you haven't looked at the statistics on coal. It's estimated to kill about a million people a year worldwide. But since the deaths are distributed and not attributable to a single accident, people's emotional reasoning considers it safe.

        Yes worst-case scenarios do have to be considered. But for some reason they see

    • by mad flyer (589291)

      Lies, big lies and statistics... There is always a retard to get almighty behind some numbers.
      Look, the number of unicorn killed by nukular is also quite low. Now look at the clusterfark that the region around the plant is, compare this to the size of Japan and STFU. Or if you want to have fun, calculate how much of Japan would be unlivable if the death per terrawatt-hour was the same as coal.

    • by Courageous (228506) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:03PM (#39318177)

      Your measure of merit for equivalency (deaths per terawatt hour) is dubious.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      That analysis is obviously flawed because it only focuses on one factor (deaths) and contains some highly dubious assumptions (lumping dam failures in with hydro is like attributing all road accident fatalities to car stereos).

      To make an informed judgement you have to consider health damage done (coal and nuclear are worst), potential risks and the consequences of an accident, social factors, and most importantly of all cost. Nuclear is by far the most heavily subsidised and expensive energy source we have.

      • by jc42 (318812)

        Nuclear is by far the most heavily subsidised and expensive energy source we have.

        Actually, there's a reason for this. Various people who've dug up the numbers have commented that in the US and many other countries, even if all the material, engineering and construction salaries were zero, a nuclear power plant would still be "uneconomic". The reason is that the paperwork required by the government costs more than the total construction costs of any other kind of power plant. Most of this paperwork is imposed by politicians responding to public fear of the word "nuclear", and most of

  • by jo42 (227475) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:54AM (#39317403) Homepage

    true nature of Japan's postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry

    Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

    • by Teckla (630646) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:11AM (#39317447)

      Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

      Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

      • by Rayonic (462789) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:42AM (#39317769) Homepage Journal

        Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

        Yeah, a nuclear disaster would never happen in a non-capitalist country!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Teckla (630646)

          Yeah, a nuclear disaster would never happen in a non-capitalist country!

          That is not true, so I guess it's a good thing I didn't say, suggest, or imply it.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          In other words it's human nature and accidents are inevitable. No new revelations there, every industry understands and accepts that.

      • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:52AM (#39317821) Homepage

        Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

        Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

        Funny. I thought capitalism was the only viable economic system that has fostered modern democracy for the last 2 centuries. Stupid history got it all wrong.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

        Too bad it's not true. Every political and economic system has the same problem, namely, that the people in power often abuse that power. In democratic systems, that power is often in private hands, hence, the complaints about "capitalism".

    • If you look back through history you find out that the greatest threat is from our the leaders. Which is pretty much the point of the constitution.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:53PM (#39318379) Homepage

      Actually the nuclear industry was in the fortunate position of being needed by politicians to keep the lights on. Take the UK for example, once world leaders in nuclear technology. Our government paid to develop it all because it was promised to be too cheap to meter if only the initial risky and expensive investments could be made, and plus it was a good way to get weapons grade material and show we had advanced nuclear tech. So during the 50s and 60s we paid for it all and ran the plants, but it turned out they were actually very expensive and not at all easy to build and run.

      In the early 80s all our energy generation was sold off to private companies and turned into a cash-cow for them. All of it except for nuclear, no-one want that because the costs were too high and the risks to big if anything went wrong (and things had gone wrong in the past). The government was offering them fully functional nuclear plants for free and a guaranteed income, but still no-one was interested. In the end we had to subsidise running the plans, insuring them and all the clean-up work when they were decommissioned*.

      So private companies had the government over a barrel. The country needed nuclear and government policy was not to run it ourselves. Now things have changed though and there is little appetite from the voters for nuclear, but lots of demand for green technology. The nuclear lobby is out in force and desperately trying to spin the situation, but people realised that if we just switch the subsidy from nuclear to green then we don't need nuclear any more.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:59AM (#39317415)

    Of course the disaster could have been mitigated, just by proper placing of emergency generators and having enough of them. 2 per reactor is just not enough, having one of them right next to the coast and the other in the basement in a tsunami-prone area is even worse so.

    Common cause failure has been discussed for decades. Those discussions weren't heeded in Fukushima Daiichi, they were in other countries and they were in the other two power plants.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      That's human nature. Accept it and then consider if we should be doing certain things given the consequences of an accident and the inevitability of it happening.

  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:17AM (#39317465) Homepage Journal
    As a former (environmental) regulator, its always difficult to find the balance between enforcing guarantees against everything imaginable at whatever cost, and providing a balance against the business people who want to pump profits and stock on a quarterly outlook. Regulators are a risk-adverse bunch and tend to think first of how they will look if something goes wrong, and can be guilty of considering every possible scenario as a mandate, which can bankrupt a business. But most businesses also have people who look first and foremost at the impact of a new cost on earnings and the next quarterly stock report. Japan has a bit of a reputation for erring on the side of business, but the important thing is that the lesson is in the press and if anyone else has any OTHER suggestions from their engineers, they should probably take a second look... or people will trust the regulators.
  • We all know this... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fullback (968784) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:35AM (#39317527)

    Especially those of us living in Japan. Nothing new in this article.

    I live about 90 miles from the Fukushima plant and yes, this affects me greatly. About 100,000 people are still living in temporary housing. The economy is in shambles. Our business electric rates are about to skyrocket up 17% and gasoline is about US$6.65 a gallon. With only two reactors online in the entire country, our power situation is going to get desperate if oil costs continues to go up.

    It will take a decade to rebuild, and where exactly do you rebuild? The same place, just to see it destroyed again?

    You want a real story? This earthquake was not a once-in-a-millennium event. Here is an article from National Geographic about a massive tsunami in the same area in 1896. That's about 100 years ago, not a thousand years ago!

    Let's face it, humans are stupid. Particularly the one who "govern."

    We're lucky that no one was killed in Fukushima, but our luck ran out on earthquakes and tsunamis. We still have quakes almost every day, and for the first second or two, we don't know if it will be another big one.

    Every bad event could probably have been mitigated. Hell, my first marriage could have been mitigated, and that was a rotten disaster.

    • by tp1024 (2409684) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:55AM (#39317583)

      The tsunami in 1896 (and the other in 1933) were much less worse than the one of 2011. The flood walls for both cities and nuclear power plants alike were built to defend against exactly those kinds of tsunamis.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      It will take a decade to rebuild, and where exactly do you rebuild? The same place, just to see it destroyed again?

      Many destroyed towns are being re-built, but with improved defences such as raising the entire area by 3m.

    • by khallow (566160)

      It will take a decade to rebuild, and where exactly do you rebuild? The same place, just to see it destroyed again?

      Actually, yes, the same place. It's worth noting here that Fukushima is no less suitable for nuclear power now than it was before we found out the risks of large tsunami.

      You want a real story? This earthquake was not a once-in-a-millennium event. Here is an article from National Geographic about a massive tsunami in the same area in 1896. That's about 100 years ago, not a thousand years ago!

      I don't know what the height of the 1896 tsunami was at Fukushima. But my understanding is that it was pretty low, under the current barrier. That appears to be one of the lessons learned in this earthquake, that tsunami can vary a lot and that the actual height of the tsunami can depend not only on where the earthquake happened, but also h

      • TEPCO actually had determined that the Fukushima nuclear plant was at risk from an larger than expected tsunami and had reported this to Japan's regulatory agency a few days before the earthquake happened.

        And this is relevant because?

        Face it, if we'd been told four days before the tsunami the exact parameters of the tsunami, there's not a whole lot that could have been done to mitigate it.

        MAYBE shut the plant down, but it wouldn't have been cooled to ambient in only four days, and the cooling ponds full o

        • by khallow (566160)

          And this is relevant because?

          Because it is evidence that the current process actually works to mitigate these risks. The Japan earthquake didn't happen to a nuclear industry that ignored the risk of large tsunami, but to one that was in the initial process of figuring out the risk from such things and how to deal with them.

          Face it, if we'd been told four days before the tsunami the exact parameters of the tsunami, there's not a whole lot that could have been done to mitigate it.

          Japan would have been able to save the lives of 15,000 or so people and prevent the Fukushima nuclear accident. There may well be a lot of valuable assets that could be moved away from the ocean in that time too. For

  • by CrackedButter (646746) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:08AM (#39317637) Homepage Journal

    Let's not forget this kind of thinking and denial was present at the Chisso Corporation, with the mercury poisoning scandal during the 70s in Minamata, Japan.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease [wikipedia.org]

  • by assertation (1255714) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:08AM (#39317639)

    You have a choice between two completely equal houses.

    One a single block away from a nuclear power plant. The other without.

    Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

    Would you live there if you were raising small children?

    Would you live there with a beloved wife, GF or your parents living with you?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If we could live as a modern civilization without power plants at all I'm sure everyone would like that.
      but we can't.

      Thus, the question is:

      You have a choice between two completely equal houses.

      One a single block away from a nuclear power plant. *** The other a single block away from a COAL power plant. ***

      Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

      Would you live there if you were raising small children?

      Would you live there with a beloved wife, GF or

    • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:44AM (#39317777)

      Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

      No, but not because of the point you're getting at. Nuclear plants are usually built in industrial areas, and the aesthetics of the area would prevent me from building/buying a house there. They are usually catastrophically ugly.

      Take a place like Chalk River, Ontario, however, and I'd have no problem living there, despite the proximity to one of the largest nuclear research labs in the world, and multiple test and production nuclear reactors. Chalk River is in an earthquake-prone area (had a 5.0 not that far away a year ago, and the geological record shows that they've had up to an 8.0 in the past, not to mention being in an area with a lot of leda clay, which has been known to amplify the effects of an earthquake), though it's too far inland to be at any kind of risk for a tsunami.

      If the nuclear reactor in your example were somehow rendered invisible, and wouldn't be an eyesore, then I wouldn't have a problem living near it at all. They tend to over-engineer these things, and pay very careful attention to the amount of radiation at curbside. While there's risk associated with a 9.0 earthquake, I'm equally likely to die in said 9.0 earthquake itself. Statistically speaking, I'm far more likely to die from a car accident than I am in a nuclear accident, and I absorb more ionizing radiation during a 5-minute cell phone call than I would spending an entire day next-door to a nuclear plant. Why aren't you asking if people would be willing to drive their car to work, or order a pizza on their cell phone?

      We can argue until the cows come home about whether they made design mistakes in Fukushima. There's almost certainly things they could have done differently, but hindsight is always 20/20. Nuclear energy on the whole is quite safe. I'd certainly rather that they were using renewable alternatives, as I'm a tree-hugging dirt-worshipper, but nuclear energy produces a lot less pollution than the non-renewable alternatives, and that pollution causes much more harm to my health on a daily basis than the radiation from a nuclear power plant would.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Not much to write, other than, "yes". Bonus if I can get cheap heat and hot water from the waste heat from the nuclear plant. (See "Cogeneration" and "District Heating").

      I might consider otherwise in a place subject to Tsunamis, but we don't get many of those in Ohio (Lakes Erie might be able to generate a small tsunami, but I don't think the Great Lakes can generate anything quite like the ocean, and we're about a thousand miles inland from the nearest ocean, with a large mountain range between us and the

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @01:38PM (#39318587)
      An article in The Guardian this weekend is about the people who live closer than a block to the Dungeness nuclear plant. They like it because there is excellent security for them and their children, it is peaceful, and they have lots of space. (It is also pretty safe).

      On the other hand, the UK (in a fit of what I can only describe as mindblowing insanity) has its nuclear weapons plant in the middle of one of the most densely populated areas in the country, and indeed of the planet. A really good disaster at Burgefield would lay waste to some of the most expensive housing in the UK and cause the evacuation of millions of people. Compared to living in the relevant part of the Home Counties, I would far rather live next to the perimeter fence at Dungeness.

      People are simply piss-poor at assessing risk, or the entire population for ten kilometres around Burgefield would be marching on Parliament, demanding the cancellation of Trident, and engaging in massive civil disobedience.

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @05:53PM (#39320189) Homepage

        By that kind of argument there is no "good" place to stick a reactor.

        I think the real question is whether these plants use safe designs, like passive cooling at the very least. Plants with fundamentally unsafe designs should be phased out everywhere, and plants with more modern and safe designs shouldn't be an issue as long as all the usual precautions are followed.

        I think a big regulatory problem is that we keep extending the life of rather ancient designs, but we don't allow newer plants to be built. This sort of thing makes no sense from a risk-management perspective...

    • You have a choice between two completely equal houses. One a single block away from a nuclear power plant. The other without. Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

      Yes. From the top of the oak tree in my front yard (assuming I was light enough and young enough to climb to the top, of course), I could see a nuclear power plant now.

      Would you live there if you were raising small children?

      I raised my daughter in this house, so yes.

      Would you li

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:36AM (#39317743)

    It's easier to just rally people around "nuclear power is bad and inherently dangerous" than to actually step up and take responsibility to do it right.

    I still kind of wonder about this one thoguth: it was a horrible disaster - I'm not taking away from that, but this was one of the top ten most powerful earthquakes on record with a pretty devastating tsunami as a follow-up act.

    I would think this was just about the worst possible scenario. Considering the extreme nature of the event that led to the nuclear disaster, it sort of makes me feel like nuclear energy isn't really as scary as folks seem to make it out to be.

    Maybe I just don't know enough about nuclear energy to be properly scared enough, but I feel like I know enough about it to not be as scared as the anti-nuke folks want me to me.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:04AM (#39317885)

    If the tsunami was a 1 in 1000 years event, then the chance of one of the Fukushima reactors to get hit by it during their lifetime was about 3.5%, which is high enough to cause concern.

    • by vakuona (788200)

      Let's say your statistic is correct, and that what hit Fukushima was the feared 1 in 1000 year event. What damaged has it really caused, long term though? And lest we forget, we are talking about a very old reactor design which was past EOL.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        That is, of course, the big question. As there was no loss of life, the equation is fairly easy: if the total cost of the accident are higher than the cost of proofing/shutting down the reactors times 30, then it was a bad decision to take the risk. But the total cost of the accident are not easy to measure.

  • by BAH Humbug (242702) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:24AM (#39317977)

    Unfortunately, some companies and governments don't understand how to respond to failure analysis. Rather than dismissing a once in 1000 year flood or a 9.8 rated earthquake, they must design the system to fail safe in that event. For example, there are nuclear reactor designs that continue to cool the fuel even when all power is lost. Or, if the pressure vessel is breached, there should be an intentional weak spot which will direct radioactive steam and fuel through a known path to minimize radiation release and mix the fuel with materials to slow/stop the nuclear reaction.

    Look around and you'll see a mix of responses to failure analysis. The Space Shuttle was poorly designed in that it didn't provide a method for the crew to escape easily and quickly. The Apollo system had an emergency tower rocket that would pull the whole capsule and crew off and away from the giant bomb beneath it.

    Commercial airliners can continue to fly when all engines have failed or have run out of fuel.

    Our huge dams will fail catastrophically because it is hard to cost effectively build something that can withstand a 10.0 rated earthquake while holding back all that water. Smaller dams would be one response.

    Can you build something like the Dubai tower that will fail safe? The fact is that safety is a choice. We choose to build skyscrapers because land in specific cities is very expensive. Are they as safe as a sine story building? No.

    People need to balance cost and safety. But too often a relatively small cost which would improve safety is dismissed. What would it have cost to move the diesel generators at the nuclear plant? What did it cost to put airbags and seatbelts in cars? What about having seats face backwards in a plane? Little things can increase survivabity, yet we still don't do them.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:26AM (#39317989)
    Regulators completely compromised by (pick your energy) industry players and utterly derelict in the performance of the job the public expected, and desperately needed them to perform. Film at eleven.
  • It's always easy to cherry pick, and with 20/20 hindsight, find someone whose predictions matched or exceeded what actually happened. Or, to put it another way - if the tsunami hadn't over topped the wall, those being lauded today would instead be laughingstocks for crying wolf.

    But, proceed with your Two Minute Hate anyhow.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:41PM (#39318321) Homepage Journal

    Even though the decisions were made by politicians and businessmen to save money, in the end, it's the engineers who get blamed for "not doing their job" or "being incompetent."

    Just like IT, where all our pleas and warnings go unanswered, and we're expected to put in buku overtime to fix the resulting disaster when it eventually does happen like we predicted for months or years before.

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @02:22PM (#39318827) Homepage

    What worries me are all those reactors which will melt down if there's a full station blackout. This is a generic problem with all GE Mark I reactors [nytimes.com], like Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania. One hour to core damage, 14 hours to meltdown. This has been known since 1972. The US still has 23 such reactors.

    There have been some fixes over the years. Fukushima had the emergency venting fix, but it didn't work because, with no power, the vents couldn't be operated. The NRC has insisted that all US Mark I reactors have extra Diesel generators and pumps beyond the original complement. On at least one occasion, they've been needed.

  • If they were on the industries side, they would have protected it. Now the global nuclear power industry is feeling the pain and Tepco has been exposed as being incompetent .
  • 'March 11 exposed the true nature of Japan's postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry, not the people,' says Shigeaki Koga, a former director of industrial policy at the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry.

    It's not even on the side of the industry; it's on the side of the quick buck.

    Were they on the industry's side, they would have had the long-term health of the nuclear power industry in mind, and be striving to make the public perception of nuclear power match

  • Not only were the flood walls not high enough but they failed to account for the ground settling because of subsidence. As a result of the earthquake, the actual ground d5opped by as much as five feet in areas. Lets assume that you barely made the flood wall high enough lets say 3 feet higher than the tsunami. Part of the problem was the base of the flood wall was now 5 feet lower than it was before the earthquake. The result would be that the top of the flood wall is now 2 feet lower than the tsunami.

  • They didn't know it at the time, but they could have just kept the reactor running as a source of power for keeping the pumps working.

    In the future, build nuclear plants underwater. That way they are already prepared for tsunamis.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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