Japan quake safety claims face scrutiny


Cooler King
Staff member
Premium Supporter
Apr 15, 2009
Defenders of nuclear power in Japan have clung to one fact since the earthquake and tsunami on March 11: the Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant suffered little damage in the magnitude-9 earthquake, and it was the huge tsunami waves that knocked out the power stations’ back-up generators.

Now, a little more than two months after the nuclear crisis began, that widely held assessment is coming under scrutiny.

Although there is little doubt that the tsunami caused the most critical problems at Fukushima Daiichi – provoking the worst radiological accident since Chernobyl in 1986 – questions are being raised about just how well the plant withstood the quake.

Records of the first days of the emergency released this week by Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator, suggest some radiation may have escaped before the tsunami struck. That would mean the quake caused significant damage to at least one of the plant’s reactors – a revelation that could erode confidence in the safety of Japan’s remaining nuclear facilities.

“I have believed for some time that the plant was badly damaged by the earthquake,” said Kunihiko Takeda, a nuclear expert at Chubu University who has testified before Japan’s parliament about the causes of the accident. He was due to appear on Friday to discuss the quake-damage issue.

Mr Takeda said evidence that the quake caused radiation leaks would have serious implications because the amount of shaking recorded by seismographs at Fukushima Daiichi – about 120km from the epicentre – was within the facility’s supposed design tolerances. He believes all Japanese nuclear plants should be shut down for a comprehensive safety review.
FT.com / Asia-Pacific - Japan quake safety claims face scrutiny
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