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Japan Politics

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

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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  • 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.

  • Re:Crank or coverup (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mad flyer ( 589291 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:40AM (#39317545)

    The fun fact with this accident was the number of people telling you so BEFORE the accident...

    And the number of idiot saying it was a 1 in a 1000 year event... while the last huge tsunami at this place was 1100 years before... AND SO WAS FOOKING OVERDUE. And when you check with the previous tsunami in 889 (around) it's exactly the same extend and the same level of flooding.

    So it's not even telling so before...

    It's just looking back at the previous shrine comemorative of the event and going back to the drawing board...

    The bigger problem is that these irresponsible bean counting punks discredited the whole nuclear industry. Areva should ask compensation from Tepco because of potential reduced business opportunities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:55AM (#39317579)

    It is not restricted to capitalist economies.

    Have to remind people that Chernobyl, still ranked as the world's worst nuclear disaster happened in the Soviet Union.

    Wait for the first Chinese nuclear accident and it will be a whopper. Somehow they managed to copy technology from the West yet stripping out safety measures that exist, aka the high speed train technology they stole from France, yes improperly implemented and stripped out safety features.

  • 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 Idou ( 572394 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:45AM (#39317787) Journal
    Hate to reply to my own post, but I realize that even with the level of extreme sarcasm I intended to include in my parent post, most ./-ers will take it as sincere and will agree with it without much thought. . .

    I wonder if this is how Colbert felt at the Bush correspondence dinner . . .
  • by Kyusaku Natsume ( 1098 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:06PM (#39318185)

    Only TEPCO's nuclear power stations suffered heavy damage by tsunami in Tohoku's coast. Japan Atomic Power Co's Tokai NPS and Tohoku Electric Co's Hamaoka NPS survived the quake and tsunami with minimum damage. Hamaoka survived despite being closer to the epicenter, and Tokai NPS didn't get much damage thanks to heeding the advice of experts in 2006-2007 that said their seawalls were too low for the tsunamis that could affect the coast and raised them. TEPCO did nothing. It was TEPCO's regulatory capture and negligence what made this ecological and economic disaster to happen.

  • 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 bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> 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 mspohr ( 589790 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @03:52PM (#39319395)

    The "owners" are the shareholders who were clueless about the risks. Everyone told them everything was just fine. The owners trusted their assets to the "managers" who put their short term interests (profit) ahead of protecting the assets.
    This is how modern capitalism works. The managers (high paid execs) get the profits, everyone else gets the shaft. (Wall street managers did very well before and after the 2008 crash... asset owners... not so well.)

  • by burne ( 686114 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @06:36PM (#39320495)

    Hamaoka survived despite being closer to the epicenter

    Dude, what kind of bullshit are you spreading? Fukushima is 156 kilometers from the epicenter, and Hamaoka 565 kilometer. Ignoring costal geometry completely. (Fukushima is close to the epicenter, on the eastcoast of Honshu, Hamaoka is far away, sheltered on the southcoast of Honshu.)

    Apart from that, Hamaoka 1 and 2 are permanently shut down since 2009 because of failures in the emergency cooling system in one of the units. Units 3, 4 and 5 are shut down since may 2011, because of very serious concerns over their safety in case of an earthquake. Not helping in convincing otherwise are the 16 incidents in which leaks led to unplanned shutdowns. Hamaoka has been called the most dangerous nuclear plant in Japan. 2 days after their final (?) shutdown CEPC had to announce that 400 tons of seawater has leaked into the primary condensor of unit 5, and five days later they had to announce that seawater has leaked into the primary containment (the reactor vessel itself). Hamaoka has a sand dune as protection, able to withstand a 26 ft tsunami. Fukushima was hit by a 43–49 ft tsunami.

    No links, google it yourself, and find your own opinion. ;)

  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:06PM (#39322451)
    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%.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker