What did TEPCO know about Fukushima before 11-Mar-11?

Last updated on July 18th, 2023 at 04:41 pm

I recently had a colleague point out an interesting paper published in the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” about the level of knowledge that existed between the start of construction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the devastating tsunami of 11-Mar-11. If you are interested in knowing more, I highly recommend this paper. The full text is available for free. There is a pretty good discussion on this article on slashdot if you are interested.

Fukushima: The myth of safety, the reality of geoscience

My first article in this series dealt with the disaster at Fukushima as a failure of risk assessment, but clearly, t is more than that. This is a policy, regulatory and political failure, and risk assessment is only one part of the discussion. Going back to my original premise, the article published in the Bulletin points out that sound scientific data was available to support a risk assessment had it been used. The problem, of course, was that the data, and repeated warnings from geoscientists, were ignored in favour of the business goals that TEPCO and the Japanese government had.

I am not anti-nuclear. I believe that nuclear power is necessary to allow us to wean ourselves off of coal and petrochemical-fueled generation and to provide us with the time needed to get other renewable sources of energy on-stream. I also believe that the fourth-generation reactor designs that are available now should be built. These reactors can use the highly radioactive ‘waste’ from the third-generation reactors and reduce it to a byproduct with a short half-life and relatively low radioactivity. According to some authors, these designs can stretch our nuclear fuel supplies by as much as 1000 x and eliminate potential stockpiles of weapons-grade material. These benefits alone should be enough to get them built.

Whether nuclear power will remain a part of our future past the end of my life, I cannot predict. As long as humans walk this planet, sustainable energy sources will always be needed. Safe, renewable sources must be developed to allow us to build a sustainable future.

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