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Japan Power Hardware

Report Condemns Japan's Response To Nuclear Accident 267

mdsolar sends this quote from an article at the NY Times: "From inspectors who abandoned the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as it succumbed to disaster to a delay in disclosing radiation leaks, Japan's response to the nuclear accident caused by the March tsunami fell tragically short, a government-appointed investigative panel said on Monday. ... In particular, an erroneous assumption that an emergency cooling system was working led to an hours-long delay in finding alternative ways to draw cooling water to the plant, the report said. All the while, the system was not working, and the uranium fuel rods at the cores were starting to melt."
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Report Condemns Japan's Response To Nuclear Accident

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 26, 2011 @06:29PM (#38497252)

    Can you imagine if 1% of cars would randomly blow up? How about 1% of airplanes have their engines fall off in flight? There wouldn't be cars or airplanes.

    But, 1% of all nuclear power plants in the world have now experienced melt downs. Per wikipedia, 441 operating plants in the world.

    echo 5/441 | bc -l .01133786848072562358

    So, OVER 1% catastrophic failure. .I'm sure all the pro pro pro nuke industry apologists on /. will mod this to oblivion. Facts can be inconvenient.

  • Re:Dunno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @06:40PM (#38497334) Homepage Journal

    Proper cooling (which would have meant functioning ICs OR venting+water injection)

    But how could authorities have done that, given that most of the gear at the reactor site was trashed?

  • by ustolemyname ( 1301665 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @06:50PM (#38497390)

    Absolutely agree with this report. Incompetence and high risk activities do not belong together. That goes from building a dam to driving a car, all of which have had their share of preventable accidents.

    As a nuclear advocate, I find the nytimes summary of the report indicates it is a little too weak and toothless, as they say, "the interim report seems to leave ultimate responsibility for the disaster ambiguous."

    Not only that, but the report states that a "quicker response" would have helped, as opposed to the obvious "design flaws in the redundant cooling systems should have been fixed previously." Most everything that should have been done to prevent this should have been done decades before.

  • Re:Dunno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Magada ( 741361 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @07:13PM (#38497544) Journal

    Unit 1 IC train A was shut down by operators to avoid excessive cooling which would have thermally stressed the metal of the RPV and shortened the life of an already old plant. Later, power to operate the valves that would have made it active again became unavailable.

    At that point, the RPV should have been vented and water should have been added using fire engines. This was not done for a variety of reasons, such as that the evacuation was not over yet. When at last venting was attempted, it was found that a valve needed for venting ad failed closed, possibly because of excessive pressure. Attempts to open it manually met with failure.

    So, eventually the reactor vented itself. Explosively.

    The severe accident management guidelines did NOT, in fact, state that venting should only be performed post-evac. They were ignored in the event.

    Even later in the accident sequence sufficient fresh water became unavailable for a while (the first reactor explosion damaged fire trucks, severed water lines and prompted a TOTAL evacuation of the site). A decision was made to delay salt-water cooling. This probably contributed to the melt-through in reactor 3.

  • by del_diablo ( 1747634 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @07:14PM (#38497550)

    Sure: Deaths per TWh []
    0.04 deaths per TWh for nuclear. Hydro is a bit more than twice that, wind is at 4 times as much, and Coal is at 42 times that again.

  • Re:Dunno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Monday December 26, 2011 @11:00PM (#38499384)

    The primary reason for the bad handling within the company (according to what I hear from an acquaintance of mine who works for TEPCO at Fukushima I) was plain panic and desire to cut as much cost as possible. The first reaction of TEPCO was to move out of the Fukushima plant. They apparently had evacuated all staff and families on Sunday already. Then they left subcontractors to deal with the disaster, while TEPCO staff was monitoring the shit happening from Tokyo via videoconferencing. They even had a glitch that caused delay in power re-supply sometime in mid-April, when a construction machine cut the optical cable that connected TEPCO staff with their human robots at the plant.

    The real question is, why was all this allowed. Many reasons.

    First, TEPCO is a very well connected and influential corporation. The nuclear power management body in Japan - JAEA - is staffed exclusively with people from the nuclear power industry, i.e. about half of their staff is from TEPCO itself. Those people advise the government on what to do. They also own stock or options of, receive pensions from and hold sinecure positions with their former corporate employer. No wonder they would be among the last to criticize it. Naturally, they influence what gets in the government media (NHK, mostly) about the accident. TEPCO is a large contributor to national politicians, and the local governments where TEPCO operates (including the affected areas) are also mostly in the pockets of the company. That is why both national and local politicians have worked with TEPCO to calm protesters from day one.

    Despite that, there have been a few large demonstrations, but don't forget that the people in the affected areas are also victims of the earthquake - their houses, business and in many cases, family members are gone. They simply don't have the means to stage significant protests.

    Second, TEPCO is a large advertiser. They wield a very large influence with a lot of private media. That is why you never see anything really bad about them in the newspapers or in the popular private TV channels. The culture preference against rocking the boat plays very nicely with the financial motivation of not angering TEPCO, so coverage is avoiding classifications as "disaster", "severe", etc. There was a lot of shock when the accident was classified at Chernobyl level, but overall the media has managed to project the message that this was an accident that is due to factors beyond human control, which has until recently, limited the interest in it on national level. We'll see if the report changes this.

    Third, TEPCO is a company that also manages distribution of power. That is why if you are a large consumer in times of shortages, you keep your trap shut if you're smart. Just in case.

    There is also the complex political situation in Japan. The LDP, the party that is directly responsible for giving the nuclear lobby a free ride, is the major opposition. They have not uttered a peep about the disaster yet, because they don't want their role advertised. Half the politicians in the party in power (DPJ) were members of the LDP at the time decisions about nuclear power in Japan were made. They also don't want to put forward the political responsibility issue. Third, the DPJ is in deep trouble anyways, and because of the way the political apparatus of Japan works, they handle the bureaucracy with a lot of difficulty. Maybe that is partly why they made the ultimately disastrous decision to let TEPCO handle the accident.

    In short, it is a very complex and very unfortunate story.

  • Re:Dunno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chitokutai ( 758566 ) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @03:24AM (#38500488)

    A couple of clarifications:

    The reason for the poor handling of the situation is as you mention, an over-reliance on contract workers, but also because of a complete lack of preparation and training by those involved. The officials at TEPCO never prepared for a worst-case scenario, because they wanted to cut costs, and they stupidly believed that the worst-case scenario was impossible. Two points make this painfully obvious: 1) they didn't think a complete loss of power was even in the realm of possibility (despite only having two backup generators, both located below ground), and 2) they didn't even have instructions in their manuals for manually venting the RPV. NISA, despite being in charge of nuclear safety and TEPCO, were watching network TV to find out the details of the problem -- i.e. a huge transparency problem.

    Also, the TEPCO as we knew it, and as you mentioned it, is finished. Most likely the company will be nationalized sometime next year, and although the same pieces of shit that got us in this situation will most likely keep their jobs, their influence over Japanese people is pretty much at an end. The media has regularly covered their incompetence and negligence since the March explosions, and even NHK has pretty solidly shown how criminal their actions were. Will anyone get put in jail? Probably not. But the TEPCO CEO has already been forced to quit, and TEPCO stocks will be in shambles for decades. In this sense, you could probably draw parallels to the clusterfuck that was BP and the Gulf oil spill. But again, it must be emphasized that no one seems concerned about TEPCO's influence on network TV at all anymore because there is a massive amount of anger directed at the company.

    In terms of power consumption, there is already talk of allowing non-centralized power companies to start operating, and hopefully this is something we'll see in the next 10 years or so. I have a feeling that the government will want to keep people tied to TEPCO mostly because there will be billions paid out in compensation to victims of the disaster, and they can't afford to pay for everything. There will be a shift away from nuclear power, though. The general consensus is that most people don't have the stomach for it anymore, and based on many reports on TV, it's clear that Japan was essentially forced into using nuclear power in the first place. We will probably see more power sourced from LNG in the near future, and there are plans to build a plant of this type in Tokyo soon.

    I'm not disagreeing with you at all, I just think that some of your information is a bit out of date. TEPCO is in ruins right now, and since we'll be dealing with radiation cleanup for decades, its negligence won't be so easily forgotten.

    I know you mentioned that NHK is in the pocket of the government, and they are, but NHK has produced some of the best documentaries on the disaster, so I highly recommend checking them out if you haven't done so (sadly, I can only find links to English dubbed versions):

    NHK Japan's Nuclear Crisis [] More video links []

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead