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Japanese Parliament: Fukushima a Man-Made Disaster 134

Bootsy Collins writes "The predominant narrative of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has been that the accident was caused by a one-in-a-million tsunami, an event so unlikely that TEPCO could not reasonably have been expected to plan for it. However, a Parliamentary inquiry in Japan has concluded that this description is flawed — that the disaster was preventable through a reasonable and justifiable level of preparation, and that initial responses were horribly bungled. The inquiry report points a finger at collusion between industry executives and regulators in Japan as well as 'the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture.' It also raises the question of whether the failed units at Fukushimi Daiichi were already damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami even hit, going so far as to say that 'We cannot rule out the possibility that a small-scale LOCA (loss-of-coolant accident) occurred at the reactor No 1 in particular.' This is an explosive question in quake-prone Japan, appearing in the news just as Japan begins to restart reactors that have been shut down nationwide since the disaster."
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Japanese Parliament: Fukushima a Man-Made Disaster

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  • And thats why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:32PM (#40558101) Homepage Journal

    I would rather the government built and ran them. I trust government workers to stick to engineering spec and scientific guideline more then a company where a CEO will make a larger bonus by putting off storage costs another year.

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:49PM (#40558215) Homepage Journal

    there are lots of reports out and coming, and lots of boiling down hundreds of pages of complex investigation into 20 column-inches, from which, boiled with a pinch of pepper and lots of HappyTalk, you get a 20 second news story.

    there are already lots of pages of technical shortcomings, outright ignorance, wishful thinking, dotcom business plans, and pinhead idiots in custom suits strutting before and hiding afterwards trying to protect their secret overseas banking accounts in the wild over this.

    Fukushima is pretty much a complete cluster-fuck, a manual of "don't do this" in every direction.

    but the Japanese way is one or two men take the blame, grab the sword, and everybody else moves happy through the streets now that the demons are purged.

    this report points out the 800-pound gorilla in the corner, whistling past the graveyard, hoping to not attract attention.

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:56PM (#40558263)
    There has been a tsunami that killed over 10000 people and demolished multiple cities and dozens of chemical plants and factories. If this was a man-made disaster where the fuck was the planning to prevent it? Why are we still talking about the nuclear plant, where at most a couple of dozen people will die in the next hundred years?

    Sure, we could have done more to prevent the damage in Fukushima, like build units from a newer generation (fukushima daichi's sister plant survived the same tsunami, but was slightly younger and thus had much less problems), have better oversight, regulation, emergency response etc. However, that is like asking what could have been done better about shark deaths in Nevada ("noone expected it to happen", "zomg, sharks!"), and totally ignoring deaths by drugs abuse, cancer, transportation accidents and cardiovascular causes in the meantime.

    The point is, reinforcing Fukushima would have been a waste of money and effort, money and effort that would have been better spent on building better flood barriers to protect places where people actually live.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:01PM (#40558291) Journal
    It's a some-hundreds-of-pages report, so I wouldn't have expected you to have read it; but is it too much to skim the summary that TFA kindly provides?

    The report's punchline is that TEPCO fucked up, and nuclear oversight and response are deeply rotten on both the operator and the regulator sides due to chronic regulatory capture and fecklessness. Honestly, that's a conclusion even more difficult to fix than some sort of design problem. Machines can be repaired. Deep cultural rot is much harder to root out, and makes it very likely that, even where solutions do exist, they will not be reliably enacted.

    It's really about the most damning conclusion that the report could have arrived at...
  • I'm surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:09PM (#40558359)

    I'm honestly surprised by this.

    Not the "it was human error, TEPCO fucked up and could easily have avoided the disaster" part. That was completely expected. I was suspecting as much before they even had it shut down.

    Nor am I surprised about the "collusion between industry and regulators". That was also a given.

    What I *am* surprised about is that they're admitting to it this quickly. I expected it to be a decade or two before TEPCO or the government would admit that anything but the earthquake/tsunami were to blame. And that they're even blaming their own culture of discipline... wow. That's some harsh self-criticism.

  • Re:And thats why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:09PM (#40558363)

    indeed, the largest problem in nuclear power: humans, therefore: inherently unsafe.

  • Re:And thats why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:13PM (#40558397)

    Government workers in general are conscientious and careful workers. There are bad apples of course but they are in general good hard workers with good ethics that simply trade pay for job security.

    But, the problem with government isn't the workers, it's the bureaucracy (and political management) forced on them that's goal is to prevent fraud (by putting 5000 pieces of red tape on every action) that causes inefficient government and the requirement that every selection be low bid that handicaps government. For those two reasons alone you'd have to be a friggen idiot to put government in charge of a power plant, even something not dangerous like coal and completely brain dead for something dangerous like a nuclear reactor.

    Unless you are willing to cut the handcuffs, allow non competitive bidding (like the private sector can) and remove the red tape that prevents fraud (and expect fraud as a result) you are going to have the worst built, deficient running reactor in the world if you let government build or run it. I'll temper that statement with one caveat, if you allow the millitary to run it you will probably be fine for construction and operation but they'll probably take the waste and dump it in an open pit on the side of the reactor.

    At least with private companies you can structure regulation to enhance their desire for safety by making unsafe conditions very unprofitable. But you have to give the regulators teeth, and you have to put in place laws that will pierce the corporate veil for serious accidents and you better be prepared to pay a LOT more for power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:17PM (#40558427)

    Yes. That such a big tsunami might occur within the timeframe that the nuclear plant was running might be a rare event, but tsunamis almost as strong had historically occurred [] along that coastline. This was not the first Richter M8+ earthquake and associated large tsunami along the Sendai coast. The Sendai Plain has sediment layers going back a few thousand years with previous events that inundated the area to several metres deep at the coastline. The plant protection was not adequate for the *known* events at ~1000-year scale. That's just foolish.

    If TEPCO makes the argument that they shouldn't have to prepare for the possibility of a once-in-a-1000-year event during the operation of a plant running for almost 50 years, then they're crazy.

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:39PM (#40558587)
    You can always do better, especially with the advantage of hindsight. Worrying about Fukushima's failure in retrospect is however the equivalent of picking faults in the security of a garden gate when there is no fence around the property at all.

    If it was irresponsible to build a power plant without higher flood protection and keep the old design running for as long as they did, how much more irresponsible was neglecting tsunami protection for the half million people in the area that resulted in more than 15k deaths and 340k people getting displaced? []. The parliamentary inquiry should have been focused on that, not driven by the people's irrational and overblown fear of the word "nuclear".
  • Re:correct. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mug funky ( 910186 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @11:35PM (#40560041)

    part of the human factor is we're absolutely never going to do this. it's not how we work. we learn by making mistakes, and we learn slowly.

  • by McFadden ( 809368 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @11:59PM (#40560159)
    I agree, wholeheartedly. It's very unusual to hear Japanese, especially politicians, comment on firmly established elements of their own culture in a negative way. While I doubt we're witnessing a sea change, and to be honest, in a lot of ways Japanese culture is also responsible for a lot of positives (e.g. clean streets, low crime etc.), it's good to see a bit of introspection going on here.
  • Re:correct. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fritsd ( 924429 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:53AM (#40561655) Journal
    If insurance companies are elbowing each other out of the way to get the contract to insure your factory / power plant;
    because their income depends on accurately assessing the risk/reward factors.

    Actuary [] is a very well paying profession, I hear.

    Nobody wants to insure nuclear power plants. That's an indicator from an unbiased source that they are a bad idea.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"