Japan Power Company Knew “But Didn’t Want To Hear About” Nuclear Reactor Tsunami Risks”

A series of investigative articles reveal the Japanese power company TEPCO repeatedly ignored several warnings and scientific research showing an earthquake as small as 7.5 could produce tsunami capable of causing a complete nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
 
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Seismic researcher says owner did not consider threat 2 years ago
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company, appeared to ignore the warning, said seismologist Yukinobu Okamura.
  • “I found that odd so I really wanted to speak out and let people know about it,” Okamura said. “No one reacted in any way.”
  • Instead, committee members discussed a 1938 earthquake in the region that killed only one person.
  • TEPCO knew of scientific studies that showed a much smaller earthquake – as little as 7.5 – was capable of creating tsunami that could lead to full nuclear meltdown at it’s nuclear power plants.

Patients exposed to radiation at Fukushima are moved -- authorities Friday encouraged voluntary evacuations in the buffer zone

Patients exposed to radiation at Fukushima are moved — authorities Friday encouraged voluntary evacuations in the buffer zone

See Also: Japan Nuclear Reactor Engineer Confesses To Criminal Coverup, Fukushima Has Always Been ‘Time Bomb’

Expert: Japan nuclear plant owner warned of tsunami threat

By the CNN Wire Staff

Tokyo (CNN) — A seismic researcher told CNN Sunday that he warned the owner of the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant two years ago that the facility could be vulnerable to a tsunami.

The owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, appeared to ignore the warning, said seismologist Yukinobu Okamura.

TEPCO has not responded to Okamura’s allegation

Okamura heads Japan’s Active Fault & Earthquake Center. He said he told members of a TEPCO safety committee two years ago that data collected from layers of earth show that in the year 869 a massive tsunami devastated where the plant now is. The six-unit Fukushima Daiichi plant is located about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

Without adequate safety measures, a repeat of the first millennium disaster at the site of a nuclear power plant could be far worse, Okamura said he told the committee then. He said he raised the issue because no one else did.

“I found that odd so I really wanted to speak out and let people know about it,” Okamura said. “No one reacted in any way.”

Instead, committee members discussed a 1938 earthquake in the region that killed only one person. Okamura said that is understandable because there was far more data available about that event. However, the power company should have considered the 869 tsunami, he said.

TEPCO representatives have held frequent press conferences since the March 11 earthquake triggered Japan’s nuclear crisis. However, critics say direct questions rarely get direct answers from the company. That includes Okamura’s allegation.

One critic is the Japanese government, which on Sunday pressed TEPCO for better information about the Fukushima Daiichi plant as it battled against criticism of its own handling of the crisis there.

Yukio Edano, the government’s point man for the crisis, issued what he called “stronger instructions” to the Tokyo Electric Power Company to fully disclose as much as possible about conditions at the plant.

“Every piece of information must be provided accurately and swiftly” to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Edano, the chief Cabinet secretary, told reporters. “Without this communication, it’s very difficult for the government to (establish) proper safety measures.”

 

A poll by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency found the government is getting poor marks for its handling of the crisis, with 58% telling pollsters that they disapprove. Though 57% of Japanese approve of how the government has moved to provide relief for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the poll found, only 39% approve of how it has managed the situation at Fukushima Daiichi.

Edano said the government has done “everything possible.”

Read the full article on CNN.

 

More on this story.

Via Citibank Depository Services.

Report: Japan plant operator ignored tsunami warnings

Last updated: 03/27/2011 10:19:40TOKYO, Mar 27, 2011 (dpa – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX News Network) — A seismologist said he had warned two years ago that a massive tsunami might hit a nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan, but the operator of the now-stricken plant had ignored it, a news report said Sunday.

Yukinobu Okamura said Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of Fukushima 1 plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, had insisted on the safety of its quake-resistance design and was reluctant to raise the assumption of possible quake damage, Kyodo news agency reported.

“It is odd to have an attitude of not taking into consideration indeterminate aspects,” Okamura, who heads the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Center, was quoted as saying.

Okamura issued his warning in 2009, based on his study since 2004 of the traces of a major tsunami believed to have swept away about 1,000 people in the year 869 after an 8.3-magnitude earthquake.

His research showed that the tsunami had struck a wide range of the coastal regions of north-eastern Japan, the same region hit by this month’s disasters, Kyodo said.

The operator has repeatedly said that the March 11 tsunami was “beyond the scope of the assumption.”

Via the Houston Bee:

Japan nuke officials ignored risk of tsunamis

TOKYO – In the country that gave the world the word tsunami, the Japanese nuclear establishment has largely ignored the potential destruction that the waves could unleash on their power plants.

The word did not even appear in government guidelines until 2006, decades after plants – including the Fukushima Daiichi facility that firefighters are still struggling to get under control – began dotting the Japanese coastline.

The lack of attention may help explain how, on an island nation surrounded by clashing tectonic plates that commonly produce tsunamis, the protections were so tragically minuscule compared with the nearly 46-foot tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima plant on March 11. Offshore breakwaters, designed to guard against typhoons but not tsunamis, succumbed quickly as a first line of defense. The wave grew three times taller than the bluff on which the plant had been built.

Japanese government and utility officials have repeatedly said that engineers could never have anticipated the magnitude-9.0 earthquake – by far the largest reported in Japanese history – that caused the sea bottom to shudder and generated the huge tsunami.

Even so, seismologists and tsunami experts say that according to readily available data, an earthquake with a magnitude as low as 7.5 – almost garden variety around the Pacific Rim – could potentially have created a tsunami large enough to overtop the bluff at Fukushima.

In 2002, following new, nonbinding guidelines by a government advisory group, Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant owner and Japan’s biggest utility, raised its maximum projected tsunami at Fukushima Daiichi to between 17.7 and 18.7 feet – considerably higher than the 13-foot-high bluff. Yet the company appeared to respond only by raising the level of an electric pump near the coast by 8 inches, presumably to protect it from high water, regulators said.

“We can only work on precedent, and there was no precedent,” said Tsuneo Futami, a former TEPCO nuclear engineer who was the director of Fukushima Daiichi in the late 1990s. “When I headed the plant, the thought of a tsunami never crossed my mind.”

….Two independent draft research papers by leading tsunami experts – Eric Geist of the U.S. Geological Survey and Costas Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California – indicate that earthquakes of a magnitude down to about 7.5 could create tsunamis large enough to go over the 13-foot bluff protecting the Fukushima plant.

Synolakis called Japan’s underestimation of the tsunami risk a “cascade of stupid errors that led to the disaster” and said that relevant data were virtually impossible to overlook by anyone trained in the field.

The first clear reference to tsunamis appeared in new standards for Japan’s nuclear plants issued in 2006.

“The 2006 guidelines referred to tsunamis as an accompanying phenomenon of earthquakes, and urged the power companies to think about that,” said Aoyama, the structural engineering expert.

WEDNESDAY’S DEVELOPMENTS IN JAPAN

• Radiation: Minuscule particles of fallout from a damaged power plant in Japan have reached Iceland and are expected in France and elsewhere in Europe, experts said, but stressed they don’t pose a health risk. A plume carrying trace amounts of radioactive iodine has been detected in Iceland, the country’s Radiation Safety Authority said. However, it added, the concentration was “less than a millionth” of what was found in European countries in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster that spewed radiation over a large distance.

– Associated Press

• Food and water: Fears over Japan’s food and water supply escalated after authorities announced they had discovered radioactive material above the legal limit in 11 types of vegetables and radioactive substances in water produced at a Tokyo purifying station. Officials warned residents not to eat the vegetables produced in several prefectures near the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility and recommended that infants not ingest tap water in Tokyo. Tokyo officials said they would distribute three 550-milliliter bottles of water to every household in the capital where an infant was living – some 80,000 households in all. Tokyo residents cleared store shelves of bottled water as officials begged those in the city to buy only what they need, saying hoarding could hurt the thousands of people without any water.

– Washington Post, AP

• Nuclear crisis: In a new problem at the Fukushima plant, the cooling system for the No. 5 reactor stopped working Wednesday afternoon, said Hiro Hasegawa, a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant. Officials said earlier that they hoped to have the cooling pumps at the No. 3 and No. 4 units operating as early as today. They had been planning to test Reactor No. 3′s cooling system later Wednesday, but the effort was set back when the No. 3 facility began belching black smoke.

– New York Times

Plant warning: A Japanese government agency that spent several years evaluating the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had declared the facility safe after dismissing concerns from a member of its own expert panel that a tsunami could jeopardize its reactors. Yukinobu Okamura, a prominent seismologist, warned of a debilitating tsunami in June 2009 at one of a series of meetings held by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to evaluate the readiness of Daiichi, as well as Japan’s 16 other nuclear power plants, to withstand a massive natural disaster. But in the discussion about Daiichi, Okamura was rebuffed by an executive from the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, because the utility and the government believed that earthquakes posed a greater threat.

– Washington Post

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