Monday, May 16, 2011

Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers

The map shows the commercial nuclear power pla...Image via Wikipedia
OMAEZAKI, Japan — The nuclear power plant, lawyers argued, could not withstand the kind of major earthquake that new seismic research now suggested was likely.
The Hamaoka nuclear power station in Omaeziki, Japan. The plant's vulnerability to earthquakes was the subject of a lawsuit filed a decade ago.
Eiichi Nagano, 90, an activist who protested the dangers of the Hamaoka plant, stood near the plant on Friday.
If such a quake struck, electrical power could fail, along with backup generators, crippling the cooling system, the lawyers predicted. The reactors would then suffer a meltdown and start spewing radiation into the air and sea. Tens of thousands in the area would be forced to flee.
Although the predictions sound eerily like the sequence of events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the lawsuit was filed nearly a decade ago to shut down another plant, long considered the most dangerous in Japan — the Hamaoka station.
It was one of several quixotic legal battles waged — and lost — in a long and largely futile attempt to improve nuclear safety and force Japan’s power companies, nuclear regulators, and courts to confront the dangers posed by earthquakes and tsunamis on some of the world’s most seismically active ground.
The lawsuits reveal a disturbing pattern in which operators underestimated or hid seismic dangers to avoid costly upgrades and keep operating. And the fact that virtually all these suits lost reinforces the widespread belief in Japan that a culture of collusion supporting nuclear power, including the government, nuclear regulators and plant operators, extends to the courts as well.
Yuichi Kaido, who represented the plaintiffs in the Hamaoka suit, which lost in a district court in 2007, said that victory could have led to stricter earthquake, tsunami and backup generator standards at plants across the nation.
“This accident could have been prevented,” Mr. Kaido, also the secretary general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said of Fukushima Daiichi. The operator of the plant, Chubu Electric Power Company, temporarily shut down Hamaoka’s two active reactors over the weekend, following an extraordinary request by Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Nuclear Crisis in Japan: Updates on Fukushima reactors and aftermath of Japan earthquake. Updated 12:30 pm, Monday, May 16, 2011. Unit 1 meltdown likely caused by earthquake, began before tsunami; radiation levels of 2000 MilliSieverts/hour measured inside Unit 1; containments of Units 2 & 3 likely breached.
May 16, 2011 New international petition to protest new and unconscionable allowable radiation exposure levels for children in Japan.
May 12, 2011. Fukushima Fallout: Regulatory Loopholes at U.S. Nuclear Plants. Major new report from Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) details safety problems at U.S. reactors and inadequate regulatory response. For example, 69 emergency diesel generator failures at 33 sites in the past 8 years.

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