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 user 2007-07-24 at 11:12:00 am Views: 37
  • #18441

    Earthquake, fire and nuclear leak in Japan
    6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the world’s largest nuclear plant on
    Monday, causing a transformer fire. Since then, revelations have been
    coming out about spills and leaks at the plant.Initially, plant owner
    Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said there was no leak of
    radioactivity. Then it said there was a small leak of radioactively
    contaminated water.  Then the size of the leak turned out to be much
    larger than originally reported, and the water was 50 percent more
    radioactive than they had first said.  Then it came out that hundreds
    of nuclear waste barrels had fallen over, with the lids coming off
    dozens of them.  Oh and, it was revealed that cobalt-60 and chromium-51
    was released into the atmosphere from an exhaust stack.

    hard to call the residents of Kashiwazaki lucky.  Hundreds were injured
    by the quake, at least nine have died and  thousands have been rushed
    to emergency shelters.  But, if any of the four working reactors had
    lost power to their coolant system, it could have gone much worse. 
    From the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center:Even after automatic
    shutdown, the fuel in the reactor core is still extremely hot, so it is
    necessary to maintain a continual flow of coolant. If it is not
    maintained, the fuel could melt, leading to the release of highly
    radioactive material into the environment. Under some circumstances, it
    could also result in an explosion.Despite the potential seriousness of
    this fire, TEPCO failed to announce whether the transformer continued
    to operate, or whether the emergency generator started up.According to
    Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, TEPCO admitted its disaster
    response measures did not function successfully, and that there were
    only four workers available to extinguish the fire, which burned for
    almost two hours.  The ground vibrations from the earthquake were more
    severe than the nuclear plant was designed to withstand, and there are
    some indications that a previously undiscovered fault line runs under
    the plant.  Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake prone
    countries, and also one of the most reliant on nuclear power.  Not a
    good combination.The delay in reporting leaks and spills also comes as
    no surprise to industry watchers, but it does seem that Japan’s
    government may finally be losing patience with an industry rocked by
    scandal for the past decade. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters,
    “They raised the alert too late. I have sent stern instructions that
    such alerts must be raised seriously and swiftly.” He continued, “Those
    involved should reflect on their actions.”"Nuclear power can only
    operate with the people’s trust,” Abe told reporters. The litany below
    shows that the betrayal of people’s trust is standing operating
    procedure for Japan’s nuclear industry.Nuclear power is never safe, but
    it is even more dangerous with a potent combination of lies, cover-ups
    and geological fault lines.

    A lot to reflect on
    Japanese nuclear industry, and TEPCO in particular, is no stranger to
    scandal.In 2002, three top TEPCO officials resigned after finally
    acknowledging that the company had violated safety regulations and
    falsified records at three of its largest nuclear power plants
    (including the one at Kashiwazaki). All 17 TEPCO reactors were ordered
    to shut down at the end of the investigation. The cover-up had been
    going on since the 1980s.