Japanese Communist Party legislator Hidekatsu Yoshii warned the Japanese parliament that nuclear reactor backup systems could fail due to natural disaster and lead to core meltdown.
TOKYO—A Japanese lawmaker last year raised in Parliament the possibility that a natural disaster could wipe out a nuclear reactor's backup systems, leading to melting in the core, but the country's top nuclear regulator responded that such a scenario was "practically impossible."
In 2006 Yoshii-san said a tsunami could knock out the diesel back-up generators. If a legislator could figure out the obvious what's the excuse for Tepco and the regulators? Had Yoshii-san been listened to in 2006 preparations to enable back-up generator survival in event of a tsunami could have been carried out. Instead, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors are now worthless, causing huge economic damage, and will take years and huge sums to clean up.
TOKYO — In the country that gave the world the word tsunami, the Japanese nuclear establishment largely disregarded the potentially destructive force of the walls of water. The word did not even appear in government guidelines until 2006, decades after plants — including the Fukushima Daiichi facility that firefighters are still struggling to get under control — began dotting the Japanese coastline.
The guy who was in charge of Fukushima Daiichi in the late 1990s says the idea of a tsunami never crossed his mind. Given the amount of attention Japan has given to tsunami warning systems and facilities to protect civilians from tsunamis this inattention seems inexcusable. Many critics are pointing to the dual role that Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plays as both promoter and regulator of Japan's nuclear power industry. This is reminiscent of the same dual role America's Atomic Energy Commission used to play for the nuclear power industry. After a reactor at Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown the AEC was broken up with its regulatory mission going to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The same argument is made about India's nuclear power promotion and regulation. But METI is probably worse because lots of top METI officials retire from METI into top electric power industry positions. The relationship between regulator and regulated is too cozy and familiar.
I worry about complacent nuclear regulatory agencies lacking in imagination and captured by industry. Nuclear power requires sustained highly competent regulation. Are governments even capability of the needed level of competence? Seriously.
A move toward newer and much safer reactor designs will be slowed by the Fukushima failures. Regulators will take longer to approve new designs and will spend a lot of time examining existing reactors. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl caused higher nuclear reactor construction costs. Whether that will happen this time around is less obvious. New designs are designed to lower costs and boost safety margins at the same time.
Do you know what Japanese CEOs do doing a crisis? They disappear. The CEO of Tepco has basically gone missing. BP's former CEO Tony Hayward is a champ compared to these guys.