Japan's Nuclear Scandals and The Fukushima Disaster- The Report

 

1. SAFETY BREACHES AND COVER-UPS
“It’s a fact that there was an unreasonable overconfidence in the technology of Japan’s nuclear power generation.” −− Banri Kaieda, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, quoted in Norimitsu Onishi, 24 June2011, ‘ ‘Safety Myth’ Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis’,New York Times.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns, fires and explosions of March 2011 were by far Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accidents, but they can also be seen as the latest in a long line of accidents in Japan’s nuclear industry − anindustry notorious for its dangerous mismanagement, secrecy, dishonesty and slack regulation.Whereas the earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters, Fukushima was a man-made disaster. Establishingthat argument is the purpose of this paper. The paper does not consider the consequences of the accident butsome are briefly summarised here:


Three people died (not from radiation exposure) at Fukushima Dai-ichi from March 11−14 and dozens of people were injured. Other nuclear disaster-related deaths have beenreported − for example Japan's self- defence force discovered 128 elderly people abandoned by medical staff at a hospital six miles from theFukushima plant; most were comatose and 14 died shortly afterwards.

More than 110,000 people were evacuated because of the nuclear disaster according to the Japanesegovernment’sInvestigation Committee.Most are still unable to return to their homes and some never will. The toll on people’s health and mental well-being has been significant − one indication being thesharpincrease in suicide rates as a result of the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster.

It will be decades before the ruined reactors are decommissioned. Decades before the legal battles haveconcluded. Contamination with long-lived radionuclides will persist for many generations − caesium-137will be a concern for around 300 years.

One preliminarystudy estimates a long-term cancer death toll of “around 1,000”;another preliminary study estimates “~100s cases” of fatal cancers from Fukushima fallout.

TEPCO could face compensation claims amounting toUS$136 billion.Direct and indirect economic costs from the disaster will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.Failure to properly protect back-up power generators was a direct cause of the Fukushima disaster. Tounderstand why a power utility would fail to properly protect vital safety equipment at a plant with six nuclear power reactors, we need to understand the systemic mismanagement of Japan’s nuclear industry. A logicalstarting-point is the scandal which broke in 2002.On 29 August 2002, the Japanese Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)r evealed details of multiple ‘malpractices’ by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The information initially came from awhistleblower who worked with a TEPCO contractor, General Electric International Inc.At that point29 cases of ‘malpractice’ had been identified involving 13 TEPCO reactors, including reactors at Fukushima. It wasreported later that these practices had gone since 1977 (if not earlier), the total number of incidents was put at nearly 200, and all Japanese nuclear utilities were involved.TEPCO’s ‘malpractices’ included:

falsification of inspection records over many years;

covering up data about cracks in water circulation pumps and pipes which are critical for reactor cooling;

failure to report cracks in reactor core shrouds (stainless steel cylinders surrounding the reactor core), steamdryers, access hole covers, and components associated with jet pumps (which circulate cooling water insidethe reactor);

in 1991 and 1992, tests of the leak rate of a Fukushima reactor containment vessel werefaked by surreptitiously injecting compressed air into the containment building;

written records of cracks in neutron-measuring equipment at Fukushima were deleted by contractor Hitachiat TEPCO’s request; and

eight TEPCO reactors were still operating although required repairs had not been carried out.Kei Sugaoka, who used to conduct inspections at Fukushima,warned the government in a 28 June 2000 letter about TEPCO’s continued operation of a damaged steam dryer 10 years after he first pointed out the problem

 

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