Friday 13 January 2012

Accident Report

Cold here in Koriyama. Top daytime temperatures of 3 or 4 degrees. Snow on the ground and swirling in the wind. I've taken to living in one room. The back part of the apartment is freezing what with the cracks in the wall and the gaps in the door frame. But, hey, work starts on Monday to fill the cracks and holes and put in a new door and window.

I didn't get round to telling you about the interim report on the nuclear accident that came out on Boxing Day. The main points were first, that in 2002 seismologists had warned of the possibility of a large tsunami and Tepco had calculated that a 15 metre tsunami was likely before 2008. But defences were not built.  (Incidentally, Yoshida, head of the plant, who had been something of a hero after the accident comes out badly in this as the person who shelved the plans due to cost.)

Secondly, operational mistakes were made. It seems that there are emergency condensers in each reactor which keep going even when all the electricity is down and can be operated by hand. Little was known about this system and no training had been given. In Reactor 1 they thought the condensers (IC) were still working when they had stopped. It was six hours before they realised and got fire hoses in. But valuable time was lost, the fuel was exposed and meltdown occurred that evening. In Reactor 3 the high pressure coolant injection system (HPCI) was stopped by hand even though it was working on batteries. Again,  cooling was critically delayed leading to meltdown.

Third, criticism of the way the crisis was managed. The Prime Minister was on the 5th floor of his residence with the control centre in the basement and communication was bad. No one in the government thought to publish the SPEEDI map which was set up specifically to forecast the spread of radioactive materials. And information was withheld and vague.

The fundamental problem is systemic: the cosy relationship between the government and the electric companies with no one taking responsiblity for people's safety, the so-called Atomic Village (genshi mura 原子村), and the myth that was created that nuclear is safe (anzen shinwa 安全神話). At the moment only about four of Japan's 50 some nuclear reactors are working pending stress tests and agreement from local residents about re-opening. The report doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Following on from the tremor on New Year's Day, we had three earthquakes yesterday. Force 3 in Koriyama. When they're announced on radio and TV they always add, 'No danger of tsunami, no reports of damage at the Fukushima plants'.
So that's alright, then.
Bye for now.

1 comment:

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