Robert J. Geller is professor of geophysics in the Graduate School of Science of the University of Tokyo.

In the Nikkei Asian Review, he makes 5 interesting suggestions for the future of nuclear power in Japan.

via Robert J. Geller: Back to the future: Restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants- Nikkei Asian Review.

Here’s a brief summary of his points。I agree with all except #4: I want to see more evidence that nationalizing TEPCO will improve the company’s “safety culture”.

  1. First, in the three years since the Fukushima Daiichi accident we still haven’t fully learned what went wrong or how to avoid the recurrence of similar problems. Tohoku Electric Power allowed full access to an international team of engineers who conducted a walkdown (a detailed inspection) of its Onagawa plant and agreed in advance to allow publication of the conclusions, whether positive or negative (in fact they were positive). In contrast, Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco, hasn’t provided outside experts with enough access to its plants.
  2. [T]here’s no such thing as a “maximum earthquake” or “maximum tsunami” — that’s just not how the Earth works. Each plant must be built to withstand specified levels of earthquakes and tsunamis, which we call the “design basis.” As the design basis is increased, the probability of an earthquake (or tsunami) in excess of it decreases (and the costs to the plant operator, and ultimately to the consumer, increase) but no matter how large we set the design basis there will always be some non-zero probability of an event in excess of it. The ultimate decision on what risks are acceptable and what risks are not is inherently political and should not be tasked to regulators.
  3. Japan’s regulators are placing too much emphasis on the issue of so-called “active faults” near nuclear power plants, while at the same time they are not paying nearly sufficient attention to the tsunami issue, especially on the Sea of Japan coast.
  4. it seems highly desirable for the government to fully nationalize Tepco and bring in new management, as was done successfully with JAL several years ago. After breaking up the company into a sustainable part and a Fukushima clean-up part, the former could eventually be reprivatized.
  5. if the government does decide to approve the restart of one or more nuclear power plants, this should and must be done with the understanding that there is some non-zero risk of an accident. It should prepare now for emergency countermeasures, including evacuations, information release, and compensation for those affected. It should also announce these preparations now.

via Robert J. Geller: Back to the future: Restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants- Nikkei Asian Review.