发信人: JianlianYi (Air Yi), 信区: bagua
标 题: Japan Nuclear Disaster Caps Decades of Faked Reports, Accid
发信站: BBS 未名空间站 (Thu Mar 17 13:30:59 2011, 美东)
By Jason Clenfield
March 18 (Bloomberg) -- The unfolding disaster at the Fukushima nuclear
plant follows decades of falsified safety reports, fatal accidents and
underestimated earthquake risk in Japan’s atomic power industry.
The destruction caused by last week’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami comes less
than four years after a 6.8 quake shut the world’s biggest atomic plant,
also run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. In 2002 and 2007, revelations the
utility had faked repair records forced the resignation of the company’s
chairman and president, and a three-week shutdown of all 17 of its reactors.
With almost no oil or gas reserves of its own, nuclear power has been a
national priority for Japan since the end of World War II, a conflict the
country fought partly to secure oil supplies. Japan has 54 operating nuclear
reactors -- more than any other country except the U.S. and France -- to
power its industries, pitting economic demands against safety concerns in
the world’s most earthquake-prone country.
Nuclear engineers and academics who have worked in Japan’s atomic power
industry spoke in interviews of a history of accidents, faked reports and
inaction by a succession of Liberal Democratic Party governments that ran
Japan for nearly all of the postwar period.
Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismology professor at Kobe University, has said
Japan’s history of nuclear accidents stems from an overconfidence in plant
engineering. In 2006, he resigned from a government panel on reactor safety,
saying the review process was rigged and “unscientific.”
In an interview in 2007 after Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki nuclear plant
was struck by an earthquake, Ishibashi said fundamental improvements were
needed in engineering standards for atomic power stations, without which
Japan could suffer a catastrophic disaster.
“We didn’t learn anything,” Ishibashi said in a phone interview this week
. “Nuclear power is national policy and there’s a real reluctance to
To be sure, Japan’s record isn’t the worst. The International Atomic
Energy Agency rates nuclear accidents on a scale of zero to seven, with
Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union rated seven, the most dangerous.
Fukushima, where the steel vessels at the heart of the reactors have so far
not ruptured, is currently a class five, the same category as the 1979
partial reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island in the U.S.
“The key thing here is that this is not another Chernobyl,” said Ken
Brockman, a former director of nuclear installation safety at the IAEA in
Vienna. “Containment engineering has been vindicated. What has not been
vindicated is the site engineering that put us on a path to accident.”
The 40-year-old Fukushima plant, built in the 1970s when Japan’s first wave
of nuclear construction began, stood up to the country’s worst earthquake
on record March 11 only to have its power and back-up generators knocked out
by the 7-meter tsunami that followed.
Lacking electricity to pump water needed to cool the atomic core, engineers
vented radioactive steam into the atmosphere to release pressure, leading to
a series of explosions that blew out concrete walls around the reactors.
Radiation readings spiked around Fukushima as the disaster widened, forcing
the evacuation of 200,000 people and causing radiation levels to rise on the
outskirts of Tokyo, 135 miles (210 kilometers) to the south, with a
population of 30 million.
Back-up diesel generators that might have averted the disaster were
positioned in a basement, where they were overwhelmed by waves.
“This in the country that invented the word Tsunami,” said Brockman, who
also worked at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Japan is going to
have a look again at its regulatory process and whether it’s intrusive
The cascade of events at Fukushima had been foretold in a report published
in the U.S. two decades ago. The 1990 report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, an independent agency responsible for safety at the country’s
power plants, identified earthquake-induced diesel generator failure and
power outage leading to failure of cooling systems as one of the “most
likely causes” of nuclear accidents from an external event.
While the report was cited in a 2004 statement by Japan’s Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Agency, it seems adequate measures to address the risk
were not taken by Tokyo Electric, said Jun Tateno, a former researcher at
the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and professor at Chuo University.
“It’s questionable whether Tokyo Electric really studied the risks,”
Tateno said in an interview. “That they weren’t prepared for a once in a
thousand year occurrence will not go over as an acceptable excuse.”
Hajime Motojuku, a utility spokesman, said he couldn’t immediately confirm
whether the company was aware of the report.
All six boiling water reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant were designed
by General Electric Co. and the company built the No. 1, 2 and 6 reactors,
spokeswoman Emily Caruso said in an e-mail response to questions. The No. 1
reactor went into commercial operation in 1971.
Toshiba Corp. built 3 and 5. Hitachi Ltd., which folded its nuclear
operations into a venture with GE known as Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. in
2007, built No. 4.
All the reactors meet the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements
for safe operation during and after an earthquake for the areas where they
are licensed and sited, GE said on its website.
Mitsuhiko Tanaka, 67, working as an engineer at Babcock Hitachi K.K., helped
design and supervise the manufacture of a $250 million steel pressure
vessel for Tokyo Electric in 1975. Today, that vessel holds the fuel rods in
the core of the No. 4 reactor at Fukushima’s Dai-Ichi plant, hit by
explosion and fire after the tsunami.
Tanaka says the vessel was damaged in the production process. He says he
knows because he orchestrated the cover-up. When he brought his accusations
to the government more than a decade later, he was ignored, he says.
The accident occurred when Tanaka and his team were strengthening the steel
in the pressure vessel, heating it in a furnace to more than 600 degrees
Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit), a temperature that melts metal. Braces
that should have been inside the vessel during the blasting were either
forgotten or fell over. After it cooled, Tanaka found that its walls had
‘Felt Like a Hero’
The law required the flawed vessel be scrapped, a loss that Tanaka said
might have bankrupted the company. Rather than sacrifice years of work and
risk the company’s survival, Tanaka used computer modeling to devise a way
to reshape the vessel so that no one would know it had been damaged. He did
that with Hitachi’s blessings, he said.
“I saved the company billions of yen,” Tanaka said in an interview March
12, the day after the earthquake. Tanaka says he got a 3 million yen bonus (
$38,000) from Hitachi and a plaque acknowledging his “extraordinary”
effort in 1974. “At the time, I felt like a hero.”
That changed with Chernobyl. Two years after the world’s worst nuclear
accident, Tanaka went to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to
report the cover-up he’d engineered more than a decade earlier. Hitachi
denied his accusation and the government refused to investigate.
Kenta Takahashi, an official at the NISA’s Power Generation Inspection
Division, said he couldn’t confirm whether the agency’s predecessor, the
Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, conducted an investigation into
‘No Safety Problem’
In 1988, Hitachi met with Tanaka to discuss the work he had done to fix the
dent in the vessel. They concluded that there was no safety problem, said
Hitachi spokesman Yuichi Izumisawa. “We have not revised our view since
then,” Izumisawa said.
In 1990, Tanaka wrote a book called “Why Nuclear Power Is Dangerous” that
detailed his experiences.
Tokyo Electric in 2002 admitted it had falsified repair reports at nuclear
plants for more than two decades. Chairman Hiroshi Araki and President
Nobuyama Minami resigned to take responsibility for hundred of occasions on
which the company had submitted false data to the regulator.
Then in 2007, the utility said it hadn’t come entirely clean five years
earlier. It had concealed at least six emergency stoppages at its Fukushima
Dai-Ichi power station and a “critical” reaction at the plant’s No. 3
unit that lasted for seven hours.
Kansai Electric Power Co., the utility that provides Osaka with electricity,
said it also faked nuclear safety records. Chubu Electric Power Co., Tohoku
Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. said the same.
Only months after that second round of revelations, an earthquake struck a
cluster of seven reactors run by Tokyo Electric on Japan’s north coast. The
Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant, the world’s biggest, was hit by a 6.8
magnitude temblor that buckled walls and caused a fire at a transformer.
About 1.5 liters (half gallon) of radioactive water sloshed out of a
container and ran into the sea through drains because sealing plugs hadn’t
While there were no deaths from the accident and the IAEA said radiation
released was within authorized limits for public health and environmental
safety, the damage was such that three of the plant’s reactors are still
After the quake, Trade Minister Akira Amari said regulators hadn’t properly
reviewed Tokyo Electric’s geological survey when they approved the site in
The world’s biggest nuclear power plant had been built on an earthquake
fault line that generated three times as much as seismic acceleration, or
606 gals, as it was designed to withstand, the utility said. One gal, a
measure of shock effect, represents acceleration of 1 centimeter (0.4 inch)
per square second.
After Hokuriku Electric’s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa prefecture
was rocked by a 6.9 magnitude quake in March 2007, government scientists
found it had been built near an earthquake fault that was more than twice as
long as regulators deemed threatening.
“Regulators just rubber-stamp the utilities’ reports,” Takashi Nakata, a
former Hiroshima Institute of Technology seismologist and an anti-nuclear
activist, said at the time.
While Japan had never suffered a failure comparable to Chernobyl, the
Fukushima disaster caps a decade of fatal accidents.
Two workers at a fuel processing plant were killed by radiation exposure in
1999, when they used buckets, instead of the prescribed containers, to eye-
ball a uranium mixture, triggering a chain-reaction that went unchecked for
Regulators failed to ensure that safety alarms were installed at the plant
run by Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. because they believed there was “no
possibility” of a major accident at the facility, according to an analysis
by the NRC in the U.S. The report said there were ‘indications’ the
company instructed workers to take shortcuts, without regulatory approval.
In 2004, an eruption of super-heated steam from a burst pipe at a reactor
run by Kansai Electric killed five workers and scalded six others. A
government investigation showed the burst pipe section had been omitted from
safety checklists and had not been inspected for the 28 years the plant had
been in operation.
Unlike France and the U.S., which have independent regulators,
responsibility for keeping Japan’s reactors safe rests with the same body
that oversees the effort to increase nuclear power generation: the Trade
Ministry. Critics say that creates a conflict of interest that may hamper
‘Scandals and Lies’
“What is necessary is a qualified, well-funded, independent regulator,”
said Seth Grae, chief executive officer of Lightbridge Corp., a nuclear
consultant in the U.S. “What happens when you have an independent
regulatory agency, you can have a utility that has scandals and lies, but
the regulator will yank its licensing approvals,” he said.
Tanaka says his book on the experiences he had with the nuclear power
industry went out of print in 2000. His publisher called on March 13, two
days after the Fukushima earthquake, and said they were starting another
“Maybe this time people will listen,” he said.
--With assistance from Yuriy Humber, Tsuyoshi Inajima, Maki Shiraki and
Shigeru Sato in Tokyo, Makiko Kitamura in Osaka and Rachel Layne in Boston.
Editors: Peter Langan, Philip Revzin
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