Updated: Nuclear plants’ earthquake risks no news to Japan / News / The Foreigner

The Foreigner Updated: Nuclear plants’ earthquake risks no news to Japan. Japanese authorities knew that the country’s nuclear power plants are not able to withstand strong earthquakes, according to a ‘Wikileaked’ US cable. The Telegraph reports an anonymous International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official claims safety guidelines for have only been revised three times in the last 35 years, and had warned of the risks as early as December 2008. "Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work," the cable reads.

fukushima, japanesenuclearpowerplants, earthquakerisk, iaea, tepco, wikilieaks, nilsboehmer



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Updated: Nuclear plants’ earthquake risks no news to Japan

Published on Thursday, 17th March, 2011 at 10:04 under the news category, by Ramona Tancau and Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 17th March 2011 at 22:33.

Japanese authorities knew that the country’s nuclear power plants are not able to withstand strong earthquakes, according to a ‘Wikileaked’ US cable.



Ignored

The Telegraph reports an anonymous International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official claims safety guidelines for have only been revised three times in the last 35 years, and had warned of the risks as early as December 2008.

"Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work," the cable reads.

According to the document, the Japanese Government had also ignored a court order to close another plant in western Japan considered to be vulnerable in the case of an earthquake. This was subsequently overturned.

Following warnings given at the 2008 meeting of the G8's Nuclear Safety and Security Group, Japanese officials promised to upgrade safety at all its nuclear power plants. It also built an emergency response centre at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that could withstand tremors of up to magnitude 7 on the Richter Scale.

However, Friday’s earthquake was magnitude 9, and questions are now being raised as to whether the government’s measures have been sufficient.    

Fukushima County Governor Yuhei Sato is furious with authorities’ treatment of the 100,000 evacuated to facilities further south who come from the area near the plant.

“Emergency supplies are on the way, but have not yet arrived for those who need them. We need absolutely everything,” Mr. Sato told NRK yesterday, saying the lack of information about actual conditions at Fukushima has spread fear and anger amongst people.

Underestimated

Power plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is also accused of withholding information about the situation at the nuclear facility.

Other WikiLeak-published US cables, by Aftenposten this time, show TEPCO has experienced earthquake-related problems in the past.

On 16th July 2007, an earthquake in western Japan caused a fire and leak of radioactive water at the company’s Kashiwazki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), causing the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to order it shut pending safety checks.

“A 6.8 magnitude earthquake interrupted the daily operations at the largest NPP in the world…The jolt caused an electricity transformer of the No. 3 reactor to catch fire sending blacksmoke billowing into the air. By noon the fire was contained and TEPCO officials issued a statement that no radioactive leak was detected. Later in the day, however, TEPCO announced that water containing radioactive material was leaked but no adversarial impact on the environment was detected,” the US government official writes.

TEPCO originally claimed 60,000Bq was released, but corrected it to 90,000 the following day, according to another cable.

However, unlike Fukushima’s catastrophe, there was “no increased threat to the environment or human safety based on their [Japanese government officials’] current understanding of the situation.”

Concerned

Reports show authorities at Fukushima are doing everything they can to prevent a complete meltdown at the severely damaged plant. Helicopters and fire engines at the scene have been spraying and dumping seawater on reactor number 3, according to CNN.

There is a possibility there has been a rupture to the plutonium-based fuel burning unit's core. There is very little or no water cooling the reactor's fuel rods, according to technicians. Bellona's nuclear physicist, Nils Bøhmer, warns, "if these efforts fail, then that will lead to an increased risk of uncontrolled criticality (and uncontrolled chain reaction) beginning. They must do everything possible to avoid a melt of the fuel.”

NRK’s writes there have been attempts to restore the electrical supply to the automatic cooling mechanisms for reactors 1 and 2, and white smoke/vapour is now coming from reactor number 2.

The Voice of America reports US nuclear officials in Washington believe reactor number 4’s entire cooling tank water has dried up, leaving the fuel rods exposed to the air. Environmental Foundation Bellona says it is deeply concerned.

“The potential for a build-up of a controllable chain reaction in the fuel pond there – in the open air – is even more likely there than in the reactor cores of embattled reactors No 1, 2 and 3. The risk is made all the worse, by the unorthodox methods Japan has been suggesting to cool it, such as dumping water from a helicopter, which would not bring about an explosion, but a lot of sparks and smoke,” says the organisation’s Alexander Nikitin, chairman of ERC Bellona in St. Petersburg.

Temperatures are reported to be rising in reactor numbers 5 and 6, and authorities are to direct water cannons towards the sixth at 10 p.m. CET, according to official reports from the Japanese nuclear safety authority.



Published on Thursday, 17th March, 2011 at 10:04 under the news category, by Ramona Tancau and Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 17th March 2011 at 22:33.

This post has the following tags: fukushima, japanesenuclearpowerplants, earthquakerisk, iaea, tepco, wikilieaks, nilsboehmer.





  
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