IAEA report on Fukushima slams lack of tsunami preparedness despite awareness of threat

Kyodo

The International Atomic Energy Agency criticized Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Japanese regulatory authorities for their failure to prevent the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster despite knowing the risk of large tsunami hitting the facility, according to a copy of an IAEA report.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog said in the final report on the nuclear disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, obtained Sunday, that “the Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) NPP (nuclear power plant) had some weaknesses which were not fully evaluated by a probabilistic safety assessment, as recommended by the IAEA safety standards.”

The paper, compiled by around 180 experts from 42 countries, is set to be submitted to the IAEA’s annual meeting in September after its board examines the 240-page summary in June.

The report addressing the causes and consequences of the Fukushima disaster as well as lessons learned is expected to serve as a reference for nuclear safety measures worldwide.

The IAEA said a new approach applied between 2007 and 2009 postulated a magnitude-8.3 quake off the coast of Fukushima that could lead to tsunami of around 15 meters hitting the No. 1 plant and inundating the main buildings.

Despite the analysis, Tepco, the old Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which oversaw Japan’s nuclear industry at that time, and other organizations did not act, deciding instead that “further studies and investigations were needed.”

“Tepco did not take interim compensatory measures in response to these increased estimates of tsunami height, nor did NISA require Tepco to act promptly on these results,” the report says.

“Prior to the accident, there was not sufficient consideration of low probability, high consequence external events which remained undetected. This was in part because of the basic assumption in Japan, reinforced over many decades, that the robustness of the technical design of the nuclear plants would provide sufficient protection against postulated risks,” it says.

As a result, Tepco did not implement a sufficient safety assessment as recommended by the IAEA and lacked protection for the emergency diesel generators, battery rooms and other vital systems against tsunami-caused flooding, the paper adds.

“The operators were not fully prepared for the multiunit loss of power and the loss of cooling caused by the tsunami. Although Tepco had developed severe accident management guidelines, they did not cover such an unlikely combination of events,” the report says, also pointing to the lack of appropriate training for workers at the plant.

The IAEA called on countries that use, or plan to use, nuclear power to make continuous efforts to improve safety based on new findings and to be prepared to cope with natural disasters more severe than those predicted when nuclear power plants were designed.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The damning report that was foreseeable because the disaster was foreseeable. So the question is whether the Japanese nuclear clique 族 is going to do any self reflection. And the other question is whether the government — itself a huge part of the problem — going to create accountable institutions to both pay the reparations and to assure no recurrence.

    I am on the skeptics’ side on these matters.

  • Jack Work

    It took 180 “experts” from 42 countries to take 4 years to come to this conclusion? IAEA is from the same culture of idiots that caused the problem.

    • Kochigachi

      They have been telling Tokyo for last 4 years.

  • TeeJayH

    Put nuclear power plants on the edge of the ocean…on active fault lines…with significant earthquake issues…and have people run them that are more interested in profit than safety….what could possibly go wrong?

    • Doubting Thomas

      Wouldn’t have been a problem if they had just flood-proofed the emergency generators and batteries. Otherwise the earthquake damage would have been minor, and the tsunami damage manageable.

  • sighclops

    So, elephant in the room – where are the charges?

  • Richard Solomon

    TEPCO was warned about serious design flaws by some of its own experts a few years before 2007. It not only ignored these warnings. It refused to include the info in its annual report. Ie, it did want the public to get wind of these potentially catastrophic flaws in the plants’ systems. This makes TEPCO more than just culpable for what happened on 3/11. It makes them negligent. No way, however, that Abe, et al will hold them to it because Abe wants to restart the plants. Profits are clearly more important than public safety!

    • jmdesp

      If reporting how Tepco failed made the public more confidently that the change required have now been implemented and a similar accident will not happen again, then the goverment has every reason to held them responsible in order to restart the plant.

  • George Polley

    Well, the discussion can go round and round, and round again ad infinitum without any significant action taking place to protect the system and the citizens. As I see the situation, it is going around in perpetual circles, with status quo in the driver’s seat, and profits providing the rationale to do nothing. And all of it sitting atop one of the most active earthquake areas in the world. Cheerful, aren’t I?

  • Starviking

    I think I’ll wait for the report, but if these facts are true then a bigger question remains:

    Who failed to protect the lives of the 20,000 people killed by the tsunami?

    • Doubting Thomas

      Had this tsunami been in any other country, it would have been 1,000,000+ deaths, so your statement is invalid.

      • Starviking

        I’m finding it hard to follow your logic.

        How does the fact that a higher death toll could have occurred in a different country absolve those who should have been looking out for the safety of the 20,000 dead of their guilt?

        Are death tolls under a million not worth scrutiny?

        I suspect it’s just you want to brush those deaths under the carpet – as you want to focus on an accident which directly killed no one.

        By the way, I write “a higher death toll could have occurred” as your initial statement is unsound. Had the tsunami hit Nauru, or any small country – there is no way the deaths could have exceeded one million.

      • Doubting Thomas

        Had the tsunami hit an equivalent length of coastline anywhere else in Asia, there would have been hundreds of thousands of deaths, if not millions. The fact the only 15,000 died is a sign that Japan’s disaster preparedness works, not that someone is at fault. The vast majority of casualties were people who couldn’t evacuate (the elderly) or underestimated the danger and simply didn’t.

      • Starviking

        Doubting Thomas, the parts of Tohoku coastline hit by the tsunami were not massively populated. 20,000 deaths is a large number for Tohoku. In some municipalities, like Otsuchi, over 10% of the population died.

        You assertion that more would have died in a different country* is irrelevant: the point here is that it appears that could more have been done to warn the inhabitants of the threat, but that was not done.

        This point, and others, is made in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s EERI Special Earthquake Report of August 2011. It is obvous when reading that report that no one in Tohoku was warned about a possible M 8.3 event being possible. I will attach a link to that report to this response.

        *Would you be satisfied if a report into deaths at a hospital concluded there was no fault, because more would have died in a different country?

      • Starviking
  • primalxconvoy

    What’s this? a Japanese organisation, corrupt to the nuclear-core, being criticised by a international organisation on things most other countries have already got under wraps?

    Next you’ll be telling me that the Japanese have replied that they’re going to “set up a ten-year panel to look into this”…