A damning report today from the Toronto Star details how the Fukushima nuclear disaster was worsened by lack of an emergency plan. Workers were left to their own desperate measures to try to stop the radioactive core from melting– their heroic efforts thwarted by omissions and errors of management…
TOKYO — A new report says Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant was so unprepared for the disaster that workers had to bring protective gear and an emergency manual from distant buildings and borrow equipment from a contractor.
The report, released Saturday by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., is based on interviews of workers and plant data. It portrays chaos amid the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful battle to protect the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant from meltdown, and shows that workers struggled with unfamiliar equipment and fear of radiation exposure.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s power and crucial cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and causing several explosions.
TEPCO has been criticized for dragging its feet on venting and sea water cooling — the two crucial steps that experts say could have mitigated the damage. Company officials have said the tsunami created obstacles that were impossible to anticipate. An investigation by an independent panel is pending.
The report revealed insufficient preparations at the plant that TEPCO hadn’t previously acknowledged.
When the Unit 1 reactor lost cooling functions two hours after the quake, workers tried to pump in fresh water through a fire pump, but it was broken.
A fire engine at the plant couldn’t reach the unit because the tsunami left a huge tank blocking the driveway. Workers destroyed a power-operated gate to bring in the engine that arrived at the unit hours later. It was early morning when they finally started pumping water into the reactor — but the core had already melted by then.
Again, greed, carelessness and human error are facts of life. We have no engineering that can protect deadly toxins for tens of thousands of years. This is not the answer to our energy crisis.
All of us have workplace experience of corner cutting– management and workers alike thwarting safety measures that seem onerous and too expensive. Everything is fine until it isn’t. A new idea is mini nuclear plants, spreading the risk and stretching the resources of government to regulate safety. We know what industry’s record is on self-regulation.
Conservation, smart use and decentralization can buy time until solar, wind and water grow into the market. We couldn’t put a man on the moon today, the vision and will are not there. But this is our own race against time and we can win.