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 user 2007-07-24 at 11:11:00 am Views: 59
  • #18440

    Earthquake, fire and nuclear leak in Japan
    A 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.

    It’s 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
    The 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.