Posts Tagged tsunami

Killing Whales Matters More Than Saving People: William Pesek – Bloomberg

Japan spent about 2.28 billion yen on whaling hunting expeditions from funds allocated for recovery from the earthquake and tsunami. It’s a drop in the proverbial bucket, given that the government plans to spend at least $300 billion rebuilding the Tohoku region

via Killing Whales Matters More Than Saving People: William Pesek – Bloomberg.

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Earthquake not a factor in Fukushima accident

The tsunami of 11 March was the ‘direct cause’ of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, concluded an official investigation report. It dismissed the idea that earthquake damage was a major factor in the accident.

A safe emergency shutdown was achieved within seconds of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, said the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Investigation Commission composed of experts independent of plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Company. Control rods were fully inserted within seconds and all 13 diesel generators started as per design when tremors disconnected the grid connection. Instrumentation was working correctly, as were cooling systems.

What was the cause, then?

Within an hour of the earthquake, however, almost the entire site was submerged to a depth of up to nine metres by a series of tsunami waves. Over about ten minutes these flooded six of the diesels and ruined the supporting equipment of another six. Only one diesel unit survived and this was used alternately to maintain essential systems at units 5 and 6 – using one of only three power distribution panels that had not been submerged. Some 36 other distribution panels throughout the emergency diesel generator system were made useless by water.

via Earthquake not a factor in Fukushima accident.

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Tsunami debris floats across the Pacific towards Midway

This stuff could be floating around for a long time, ebbing back and forth across the Pacific. Yuk.

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I’m reminded of the beginning of J.G. Ballard’s novel (and movie), “Empire of the Sun”, where the coffins float down the river, bump against ships, and break open … Anyone for a swim in Hawaii?

Can’t find that particular clip, but here’s the trailer for “Empire of the Sun”. I’ve shown it to Japanese and Chinese students. It’s a slice of history that ties China, Japan and Britain together. It stars a dynamic young Christian Bale (later played Batman). The theme song that plays at the beginning and in the trailer sounded vaguely Chinese (to my unfamiliar ear) but it’s in fact a haunting Welsh song, Suo Gan. A very good Spielberg movie. One of those movies that bear repeated watching.

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And here’s the choir of King’s College singing Suo Gan:

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よくある質問Q&A:X 市公式ホームページ  X-City Official Homepage

Alerted by EX-SKF blog, I found my city in a list of cities (published by AERA magazine, the list is replicated here – in Japanese only – with cities that have since withdrawn from the scheme highlighted in red) that had accepted a government request (back in April) to accept debris from the earthquake/tsunami area. However, this was before it was realized/discovered that much debris was radioactive. Has my city’s position changed? (Some cities have withdrawn their acceptance; they are marked in red in the replicated online list.) What is the current situation? I sent them an email, and they posted their answer on the city’s environment section homepage. Here it is (with my city’s name redacted, and my summary in English below):

さて、メールを頂いた件ですがX市におきましては、4月8日付けで環境省より「東日本大震災により生じた廃棄物の受入処理の依頼」について県廃棄物対 策課を通じて4月27日に受理致しました。本市としては、放射能汚染がないことを大前提として「生ごみ」、「可然性混合廃棄物」を受入可能な廃棄物とし て、県へ回答しており、国が安全基準等を明確に定め、災害廃棄物が放射能汚染のない安全なものであると確認できることが、受入の条件と考えております。

(My summary) Following an April 8th request from the Environment Ministry to accept debris from the quake-hit area, the city agreed on April 27th. However, this was on the assumption that the debris was not radioactive , but was debris that fell into the categories of “raw garbage” or “wet refuse” and burnable refuse. We sent our reply to the prefectural authorities, on the understanding that the debris would be checked against the national safety standards and would not contain radioactive substances. This is the assumption we are making. [In other words, it’s not clear whether debris WILL be checked against national safety standards or not. A clear answer has not been received by the city. They are just assuming this. Who wouldn’t, right? But is it ok to make an assumption like this on an issue of this importance?]

The Environment ministry published its guidelines for the disposal of quake/tsunami debris, and these were received by the prefectural rubbish disposal section.

However, at present details have not been gone over [by whom?] and as the city wishes to proceed with a cautious approach, please give us your understanding.

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Tepco tries to save face | The Japan Times Online

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Thursday defended its decision to withhold the results of its 2008 calculations that predicted tsunami higher than 10 meters could strike the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, saying it saw no point at the time in publicizing a projection based on a multitude of assumptions.

Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said the calculation was made on an “unreasonable” assumption of a massive quake that had never occurred off Fukushima striking, adding it was difficult before March 11 to comprehend the potential danger.

via Fukushima rice tests show no contamination | The Japan Times Online.

This is a little odd. I would understand it if they said, “While we always knew that there was always the possibility of a quake and tsunami of a size beyond our predictions, nevertheless, we had to draw a line somewhere as to probability; we had to weigh costs versus probability, and we made our choice – the chances of a massive tsunami higher than 10 metres were so slim (in our estimation) that preparing for such an eventuality would not be worth the costs. We now see that we were wrong about the slim chances, but a decision had to be made and we made it.”

But that’s not what they’re saying, at least according to this Kyodo article.  They’re saying ” it was difficult before March 11 to comprehend the potential danger.” In other words, they seem to be saying, “we didn’t have enough data!” This suggests a startling lack of a) imagination, and b) of how economic decisions are made.

And it’s an odd sort of defensive statement to make.

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No livestock farmers apply for government help | The Japan Times Online

What the….?

SENDAI — No livestock farmers in the four prefectures worst hit by the March disaster have applied for a government aid program to help them resume operating, apparently because the qualification terms make it impossible, local authorities said.Under the support program, the government offers subsidies to livestock farmers to remove tsunami debris and repair facilities. To apply, they are required first to form a union with at least five households as members, and the group is then required to begin operating as a collective, with jointly owned and run cattle, pig and poultry barns.

via No livestock farmers apply for government help | The Japan Times Online.

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It wasn’t our fault! It wasn’t our fault!!! – Japan utility knew of tsunami threat: government – Yahoo! News

So the blame shifting continues.  Does anyone really think this exculpates the regulatory agency?  “OK, here’s the deal: you tell us what safety procedures you think you ought to implement, and we’ll mull them over and tell you to implement them. Or maybe we’ll just skip the mulling. Save time. I hate reading, anyway.” (“Despite taking part in the Hamaoka drill, Kan admitted he didn’t understand how SPEEDI worked or how valuable the data was.” From AP Impact: Japan ignored own radiation forecasts). 

But now, of course, the regulatory body has moved to MEXT, so that will solve all the problems. There will never be any more fudging of responsibilities now. We can all sleep soundly in our beds.

TOKYO – Japan’s nuclear regulator said Wednesday that the operator of a crippled nuclear plant knew it might be hit by a far bigger tsunami than it was designed to withstand.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the operator informed it just four days before Japan’s massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami that waves exceeding 10 meters 33 feet could hit the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The plant was only designed to withstand a tsunami about half that height.Agency officials said Wednesday they recommended that Tokyo Electric Power Co. take measures to prepare for a bigger tsunami but did not give specific instructions.

via Japan utility knew of tsunami threat: government – Yahoo! News.

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死者・不明者 2万319人 NHKニュース


via 死者・不明者 2万319人 NHKニュース.

Death toll from March 11 earthquake and tsunami now at 20,319.

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Many Kesennuma evacuees fled tsunami by car : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri

”However, people probably jumped into their cars because they wanted to escape as quickly as possible.” No s**t, Sherlock! Ya think? Ya think they maybe knew a tsunami was on the cards soon after an earthquake like that?

More examples of people taking their own initiative.

The Kesennuma municipal government had called on its citizens to evacuate on foot whenever an earthquake occurred.  However, people probably jumped into their cars because they wanted to escape as quickly as possible.

Cars were also necessary to evacuate elderly people and children, and some evacuation sites were a fair distance away.

On March 11, a tsunami swept over the city’s streets and a number of bodies were found in cars inundated by the tsunami.  A municipal government official said, “Learning from this, we want to expand the width of roads and set up large parking lots at evacuation centers.”

Asked how they received evacuation orders on the day of the disaster, 54 percent said they got them through the local administration’s disaster-prevention wireless system; 9 percent from the radio; 6 percent from cell phones; 3 percent from TV and 17 percent said they did not hear any warning. Among the four districts in Kesennuma, 34 percent of people living in the Motoyoshi district said they did not hear any warning.

The municipal government had set up receivers in houses in areas with poor wireless reception. However, some of these receivers may not have worked due to a power outage or because they became disconnected. The survey was conducted to provide the basic data to develop a restoration plan.

via Many Kesennuma evacuees fled tsunami by car : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE The Daily Yomiuri.

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Fukushima plant site originally was a hill safe from tsunami | The Japan Times Online

Hindsight is always 20/20

Hindsight is always 20-20. “When I see the situation now…” The issue is that no-one thought at the time that shaving 25 meters off the bluff was a potential problem.

Also, is it definite that this would have avoided a nuclear disaster? Admittedly, the nuclear disaster’s immediate cause was the tsunami flooding the compound and knocking out the power lines to the national grid as well as the first-line backup generators. However, there have been numerous other problems which have come to light as the disaster has unfolded, many of them to do with safety policies or features that TEPCO was required to put in place or fix and which they did not.

The level of complacency in the Japanese nuclear industry as a whole can be measured by the fact that all nuclear reactors have undergone safety checks since March 11, and several were put on standby or on reduced power, awaiting checks and approval from local and national government.”No, no, no! Absolutely no danger! They’re all completely, 100%, utterly safe! We’re just, erm, double-checking to satisfy the naturally nervous public but there’s really nothing to worry about.” Yeah, right.

I reckon there would have been a major accident somewhere sometime, even if the tsunami hadn’t happened. It took the tsunami to reveal the head-in-the-sand arrogance and complacency of the nuclear industry and the public’s wilful ignorance and blind trust in their “elders and betters” (TEPCO and government ministers).

Many Japanese keep wittering on about being the only country that has suffered atomic attack. Yet prior to March 11,  when it came to types of radioactive isotopes, safe levels, the meaning of “millisievert”, half-lives, etc., Joe Tanaka was as ignorant as any citizen from a country without any nuclear power industry.

Katsumi Naganuma, 70, a former worker at Tokyo Electric Power Co., feels particular guilt because he knows that a 35-meter-high, tsunami-safe, bluff overlooking the sea was shaved down to build the Fukushima plant closer to sea level more than 40 years ago.Tepco, assuming tsunami 3.1 meters or higher would never hit the coast, cut down the bluff by some 25 meters and erected the plant on artificially prepared ground only 10 meters above sea level.”When I see the situation now, I feel it was wrong to clear that much of the hill away,” said Naganuma, who worked at Tepco’s local office preparing for the construction in the late 1960s.”If they did not dig the ground down that much, we would not have faced this situation. The nuclear disaster would not have happened,” said Naganuma.

via Fukushima plant site originally was a hill safe from tsunami | The Japan Times Online.

The article takes the easy option: slam TEPCO (with hindsight), but it includes good reasons why TEPCO did this:

During a recent interview with The Japan Times, Masatoshi Toyota, 88, former senior vice president of Tepco, said one of the reasons the utility lowered the bluff was to build the base of the reactors directly on solid bedrock to mitigate any earthquake threat.

Toyota was a key executive who was involved in the Fukushima No. 1 plant construction.

It is actually common practice to build primary nuclear plant facilities directly on bedrock because of the temblor factor.

Toyoda also cited two other reasons for Tepco clearing away the bluff — seawater pumps used to provide coolant water needed to be set up on the ground up to 10 meters from the sea, and extremely heavy equipment, including the 500-ton reactor pressure vessels, were expected to be brought in by boat.

If the entire structure had collapsed because it was not built on bedrock, no doubt the Japan Times and others would be slamming TEPCO with articles like “Fukushima plant not built on bedrock! TEPCO wanted safe height to avoid unlikely tsunami”.

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