Japan: Attempted Cover-up of Nuclear Safety Lapses

October 26th, 2011
in econ_news

japan-nuclear Econintersect:  The operations manuals at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor were 170 long.  This reactor was the first to melt down following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area on March 11.  Why did the reactor melt down?  The event occurred because, with total loss of electrical power, there was no way to cool the reactor core.  The operations manual contained no instructions on what to do in the case of total loss of power.  And it turns out that there were extensive efforts to cover that up, both by the electric company and by the regulatory agency which oversaw the plant operation.

Follow up:

From The Japan Times:

Instructions in the manuals were all based on the assumption that two backup direct current batteries at reactor 1 would keep working throughout any emergency. In fact, the batteries were knocked out by water when the monster tsunami struck and crippled the Fukushima plant.

The manuals also failed to instruct workers to open by hand critical valves normally powered by electricity to vent steam and thus reduce pressure in the containment vessel. The DC batteries were supposed to supply power to operate those valves.

The containment vessel is the last line of defense to prevent radioactive materials from escaping the reactors. Tepco tried to open the valves to keep the vessel from breaking apart on March 12. Pressure also needed to be reduced to allow coolant water to be injected to prevent a meltdown of the reactor core.

But it took hours for Tepco workers, who apparently had no training in how to open the valves manually, to vent the steam and relieve the pressure, and many experts say the delay may be a key factor that led to the meltdown at unit 1.

Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company) had delayed for months the release of the full unexpurgated manuals.  When that was finally done, an official from NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency)  issued a statement (Monday, October 24) that they found nothing in the manuals that presented a serious safety concern.  The next day a review by the newspaper (Japan Times) revealed the critical flaw.

Tepco has other problems as well.  Sanjeev Kulkarni recently reported in GEI News that Tepco has created a bureaucratic mess in their handling of compensation claims.

Source:  Japan Times and GEI News

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