Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TEPCO is Found Liable for Negligence for Fukushima Disaster

TEPCO has been found liable for the Fukushima disaster for the first time in a specific court case, but its liability is being cast in terms of failure to prevent flooding from the tsunami, which is widely cast as causing the disaster (as the back-up generators were flooded preventing cooling of reactors and pools):
Daisuke Kikuchi Mar 17, 2017 In first, government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster. The Japan Times,

Maebashi, Gunma Pref. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes. Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. 
 It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
...Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”  It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.
The dominant narrative of causality for the disaster hinges on the role played by the tsunami. As you can see from the news account above, the court ruled that the "massive tsunami" was "predictable" and that the disaster resulting from it "could have been avoided." 

Hence, the "tsunami" is seen as the agency responsible for the meltdowns. This account allows the nuclear industry to say that nuclear power plants are "safe" in earthquakes so long as they are not flooded. There is no doubt that locating back-up-generators in basements is a bad idea, but the symbolic erasure of the role of earthquake damage is, I think, deliberate and highly dangerous.

Many experts - experts whose opinions have not as widely been disseminated - argue that it was the earthquake, rather than the tsunami, that played the most critical role in causing the disaster by damaging the pipe infrastructure that delivers cooling water to the reactor and the spent fuel pool.

The British newspaper The Independent reported that workers had seen cooling-water pipes burst after the earthquake and prior to the tsunami at 2:52 p.m. 11 March, indicating reactor damage and radiation releases prior to the tsunami:
D. McNeil and J. Adelstein (17 August 2011) ‘The Explosive Truth Behind Fukushima's Meltdown’, The Independent,, date accessed 19 August 2011.
Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former Hitachi nuclear engineer, explained recently in The Asia Times that the "earthquake question" needs to be investigated further:
Daniel Hurst (March 8, 2017). The Earthquake Question. The Asia Times,

He also suggested that the piping system that took in seawater for cooling purposes might have been corroded, adding that such pipes were “generally vulnerable to earthquakes.” “I’m not saying that the earthquake alone caused damage in lieu of the tsunami – the tsunami no doubt had a significant role,” Tanaka said.

“But I’m also saying that the anti-seismic design of the power stations was inadequate and I’m also saying that without the tsunami the same accident possibly would have occurred. So even excluding the tsunami, just the earthquake alone could possibly cause a major rupture. I’m stressing that one should not neglect or ignore the issue of the earthquake.”
The "issue of the earthquake" being stressed by Tanaka is of great significance as Japan's LDP and nuclear industry push forward plans to re-start reactors.

Japan's nuclear regulatory committee, the NRA, has strengthened earthquake requirements but the sheer number and severity of earthquakes in Japan makes nuclear safety oxymoronic.


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