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Thread: 9.0 Earthquake Strikes Japan

  1. #121

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    JUNE 19, 2011,

    Japan Failed to Implement World Nuclear-Safety Rules, Report Says


    BY DAVID CRAWFORD IN BERLIN AND MITSURU OBE IN TOKYO

    Japanese officials failed to implement international nuclear-safety standards designed to mitigate damage from tsunamis and earthquakes at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant that triggered Japan's nuclear crisis, a United Nations nuclear-agency report said.

    The report, to be presented in Vienna on Monday at a ministerial-level meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency and its 151 member states, is the most definitive outside review to date of Japan's nuclear accident and subsequent handling. Its findings are expected to help frame an international nuclear community debate at the week-long meeting on how to ensure atomic-power safety in the future.

    While praising the handling of the accident by Fukushima plant engineers, the IAEA report was critical of Japan's preparedness and response to the crisis in most other respects. In addition to failing to implement IAEA guidelines to protect nuclear plants against earthquakes and tsunamis, the report said Japanese nuclear officials also failed to quickly evacuate nearby residents in accord with the U.N. agency's standards and didn't build adequate multiple levels of protection to contain damage and radiation leakage in the event of an accident at a nuclear-power plant.

    The IAEA report also questions Japanese authorities' advisories during the unfolding crisis, suggesting that local residents living between 20 and 30 kilometers (12 and 19 miles) from the Fukushima site remain in their homes, while closer ones were asked to evacuate.

    "Long-term sheltering is not an effective approach," the report said.

    Instead, the IAEA recommends evacuating local residents living near nuclear accidents according to specific criteria, such as when radiation levels approach dangerous levels. The report, based on Japanese data and the findings of an IAEA fact-finding mission to Fukushima, said its team couldn't determine the level of radiation exposure of residents before evacuation.

    Still, the IAEA report said a Japanese road map toward recovery from the nuclear accident "appears to be ambitious but achievable, and to include the issues to be addressed in order to insure sustainable safety as well as protection of the environment."

    There have been setbacks, however. On Friday, a system to decontaminate massive amounts of highly radioactive water flooding the Fukushima Daiichi site was shut down just five hours after operations were launched with much fanfare. Workers are scrambling to fix the latest in a series of glitches plaguing the the U.S.-French-designed system with the hope of bringing it back online by Tuesday.

    In a telephone interview, a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that it acknowledged the IAEA's assessment and that Japanese nuclear regulators were reviewing their evacuation policy to deal with large-scale nuclear accidents.

    The recommendations to local residents were issued in close consultation with local authorities and in a speedy manner, Kentaro Morita, director of international public relations at the Japanese nuclear safety agency said. "However, we did not anticipate that the disaster would require such an extended period of evacuation, nor did we have guidelines in place for upgrading an indoor evacuation to a more full-fledged evacuation," he said.

    In their report, the IAEA officials said Japanese nuclear officials conducted adequate safety reviews in anticipation of events they had faced in the past, such as handling equipment failures in the nuclear plant's control room, but failed to conduct safety reviews for less familiar threats, including earthquakes and tsunamis. "No probabilistic safety assessments for external events were required" by Japan's NISA, the IAEA experts wrote.

    The IAEA concluded that Japanese regulators underestimated the earthquake risk because they primarily relied on "recent historical seismological data." Instead, nuclear regulators also should have considered "paleoseismic and archaeological information on historical and pre-historical earthquakes," as recommended in IAEA guidelines, the report found.

    The IAEA said it also found "insufficient defense-in-depth provisions for tsunami hazards" as per the recommendations of a review conducted by an IAEA-led team of experts in 2002. "Moreover, those additional protective measures were not reviewed and approved by the [Japanese] regulatory authority," the IAEA report says.

    Asked about IAEA criticism of Japan's preparations for the tsunami threat, NISA's Mr. Morita said, "The latest tsunami was unprecedented in its scale. We acknowledge that we are not fully prepared for such large-scale tsunamis and intend to strengthen tsunami countermeasures."

    Junichi Matsumoto, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima plant, said the company would incorporate any new guidelines the Japanese government sets based on the IAEA's recommendation. "But we are also looking at recommendations coming out of the IAEA on our own, and will incorporate them as needed, irrespective of whether they are adopted by the Japanese," he added.

    Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc

  2. #122

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    JUNE 19, 2011,
    The IAEA concluded that Japanese regulators underestimated the earthquake risk because they primarily relied on "recent historical seismological data." Instead, nuclear regulators also should have considered "paleoseismic and archaeological information on historical and pre-historical earthquakes," as recommended in IAEA guidelines, the report found.
    The crux. If there is going to be a nuclear industry, utility companies and government oversight agencies (especially), have to plan for events that occur every now and then, every century, and ever thousand years.

    Might be best not to build nuke plants in areas of high seismic activity. That would probably mean excluding all of Japan (54 reactors) and Taiwan (3 active; 1 reactor under construction) from nuclear power usage, unless engineering could meet extremely high standards.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors#Japan
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors#Taiwan




  3. #123
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    I am a bit confused though.

    I do not believe it was the actual earthquake that posed the biggest problem here. It withstood the shaking. It was the Tsunami and all the cooling apparatus that was damaged/taken out by the Tsunami.....

    That was something that, if I remember correctly, many knew about before this event and no real amount of paleo-historical research into seismic events would have really predicted this. (You need to have an earthquake in a certain location to get a Tsunami that would be this damaging to this area....etc etc).

    There are always some things that are designed for that aren't enough because we have not seen them before (vertical wave propogation causing shear failure in beam-to-column connections, I believe this was Northridge Ca), but there are others that happen just because the people who run the plant do not want to spent the money to fix something that has a slim, but definite risk of absolute destruction.

  4. #124

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    My understanding is that it was both. Apparently The plants were designed to withstand a magnitude 7.9 earthquate whereas this quake was measured at 9.0
    http://boingboing.net/2011/03/12/jap...hima-oper.html

    The Japanese Govt has admitted a low level of readiness for this event despite warnings that it was likely
    http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/artic...6_CUTLIN763992

    Yet, no one was charged with a manslaughter (KIDDING!, I am kidding.)

  5. #125

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    In this instance, it was the tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plants. The earthquake alone would not have led to this disaster, although had the faultline been on land or nearer to the plants, that might have been different too. A few weeks ago the IAEA concluded that the Japanese had underestimated the tsunami threat to these facilities. The break wall surrounding the plant was built to with stand a 5.7 meter wave. The actual waves were more than 9 meters and perhaps as high as 14 meters. Note the wave levels in the Wiki illustration below.

    There is a reason why we use the Japanese word for tsunamis. Japan gets hit with more, and larger, tsunamis than any place in the world, and the Tohoku (= "East-North") region in Japan has an unfortunate combination of geology and seismic activity meaning areas along this coast are going to get hit most often and the hardest. The characters for tsunami are "harbor" + "wave" --



    The three dots on the left side of each signify water -- water, water everywhere. All the coastal harbors suffering the heaviest damage in Tohoku are perfect demonstrate the historical evolution of this term.


    Last edited by hbcat; June 20th, 2011 at 09:37 PM. Reason: Fixed broken links; typos, hbcat

  6. #126

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    No need for paleo-historic data when historical markers serve as clear warnings --

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This stone memorial, on a hillside outside of Miyako in Iwate Prefecture, records a warning from survivors of the Meiji Sanriku Tsunami of 1896. It reads: "The tsunami reached here. Do not build houses below this point. Be cautious even after years have passed." The marker is 500 meters inland.

  7. #127

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    ^ 3rd of a mile? Would be interesting to see how many buildings/homes were built below that at the time of the tsunami. That's incredible. The nuclear fallout (figuratively) from their mistakes will affect that entire area for decades.

  8. #128

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    Actually, the tsunami reaches as far as 10 km (6 miles) inland in some of the long narrow river valleys. The illustration is taken from an article as evidence of what happens when we *do* heed such historic warnings. No one built below this marker and Miyako suffered minimal damage.

  9. #129

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    Then what could have been done? Nothing. Except breakers, (jettys) maybe? Probably not a tsunami that size, but who would have thought of such a disaster?

  10. #130

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    Nothing could have been done to stop the tsunami. But nuclear plants should not have been built there or truly massive safety measure need to have been included. This was not the case.

    Who could have thought this might have happened? I guess I am saying that anyone looking at the historical record could have foreseen that massive tsunamis swamp this coast every century. Think of it this way: once every hundred years there will be "the biggest earthquake and tsunami of the century," and so forth for every 200, 500, and 1000 years. It's not a question of if such events will happen, but when.

    Engineers and policy makers cannot think in terms of one or two decades when planning and building nuclear power plants. This is not even an argument against nuclear power. It's almost common sense.

  11. #131
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    There has to be a way to be able to fully shut down a facility (including the long cool-down period) whenever something like this happens.

    the killer was the Tsunamis that wiped out, I believe, either the coolant pumps or the generators that powered them.

    I would hazard a guess that they were the pumps.

    I also remember hearing about other pumps running out of fuel (fuel lines cut).


    Either way, the reactor kept building up heat and pressure and blew (the pictures we have all seen). It was not that the waves hit the reactor itself, but that they destroyed the surrounding area.

    Also, I was not going to say anything about the 9.0, because I did not know what the readings were on land, but just so you know, NOTHING is designed for a 9.0. San fran was leveled with a high 6, which is 100 TIMES WEAKER THAN A 9!!!!! (Logarithmic scale).

    The problem with this old reactor was not design, per se, but bureaucracy and incompetance which prevented the shut-down/rennovation of an outdated reactor in a high risk location.

    As a result of playing the odds, these guys won the "Unlucky Lottery".

  12. #132
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    I believe the air intake vents for the diesel generators were on the same second story level as the generators. The generators should have been in earthquake resistant / watertight rooms with air intake chimneys several stories high

  13. #133

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    Quote Originally Posted by mariab View Post
    Then what could have been done? Nothing. Except breakers, (jettys) maybe? Probably not a tsunami that size, but who would have thought of such a disaster?
    The same thing happens in the Mississippi River flood plain. Flooding was always a natural event. It's what made the surrounding land so fertile. Building levees to hold back the river just postpones the inevitable, and when it happens, it's worse.

  14. #134
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    When the levee breaks.........[/Zep]

  15. #135

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
    As a result of playing the odds, these guys won the "Unlucky Lottery".
    I agree with your post, NH, but this event isn't even nearly as remote as lottery odds. If the reactor is going to get swamped once per century, or even once every 150 years, that means that once every fifty years you'd have a 33-to-50% chance of seeing this occur.

    I cannot find the source again, but soon after the tsunami I think I read about a safety report in which some important feature such as the intake vents Gordon mentions should have been elevated raised by some very measure (e.g. 30 centimeters), but these were only moved a few centimeters. This would have prevented this disaster.

    Similarly, the people drilling the BP well in the Gulf "saved" about $100,000 in April, 2010 by not performing an essential safety test a couple of days before the fire and spill. Different cultures and different circumstances, same mentality.

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