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Nuclear disaster at Fukushima was preventable, study shows

22 September 2015 22:09


A study shows the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 could have been avoided.

The study released in the science journal Philosophical Transactions said, “The Fukushima accident was preventable if international best practices and standards had been followed, if there had been international reviews, and had common sense prevailed in the interpretation of preexisting geological and hydrodynamic findings.”

The study also paints a bleak picture of failures of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear plant, before the disaster, as well as the company’s handling of the crisis.

Costas Synolakis and Utku Kanoglu, two researchers who used documents provided by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US National Research Council, Japan’s bicameral legislature and TEPCO itself, wrote that the nuclear accident revealed striking inaccuracies in TEPCO’s internal risk analysis, as well as “regulatory failures.”

“The entire experience with TEPCO’s pre-event internal studies, not to mention the entire methodology that has been used in Japan to assess tsunami hazards, points to the perils of insularity.”

The study also alleges that TEPCO researchers had long known that earthquakes could threaten power plants in the region. Despite that, necessary safety measures were not taken.

The researchers also question the vulnerable designs of some Japanese nuclear power plants at Fukushima. The study warns that similar flaws could lead to more accidents in the future.

“Interestingly, while the Onagawa (nuclear power plant) was also hit by a tsunami of approximately the same height as Daiichi, it survived the event remarkably undamaged.” The differences in vulnerability could partially be due to methodological mistakes “which almost nobody experienced in tsunami engineering would have made,” according to the researchers.

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