Tepco rejected requests for anti-tsunami steps before 2011 nuclear crisis


Tokyo Electric Power Co. turned down requests in 2009 by the nuclear safety agency to consider concrete steps against tsunami waves at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered a tsunami-triggered disaster two years later, government documents showed Friday.

“Do you think you can stop the reactors?” a Tepco official was quoted as telling Shigeki Nagura of the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, who was then assigned to review the plant’s safety, in response to one of his requests.

The detailed exchanges between the plant operator and the regulator came to light through the latest disclosure of government records on its investigation into the nuclear crisis, adding to evidence that Tepco failed to take proper safety steps ahead of the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

According to records of Nagura’s accounts, Nagura heard Tepco’s explanations of its tsunami estimates at the agency’s office in Tokyo in August and September 2009 as it was becoming clear that coastal areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures were hit by massive tsunami following an earthquake in 869.

Tepco said the height of waves was estimated to be around 8 meters above sea level and will not reach the plant site, which was located at a height of 10 meters, they show.

But Nagura said he remembered thinking pumps with key cooling functions, which were located on the ground at a height of 4 meters, “will not make it” and told Tepco, “If this is the outcome, you better consider concrete responses.”

In refusing to immediately act, Tepco said it would wait for related studies to be carried out by the academic society of civil engineers, which it had requested to be done by March 2012.

Nagura also proposed placing the pumps inside buildings to protect them from being exposed to water, but a Tepco official told him, “Our company cannot make a decision without seeing the results of the (studies by the) society of civil engineers.”

Then another Tepco official told Nagura, “Do you think you can stop the reactors?” according to the government documents.

Nagura recalled in the documents, “I wondered why I had to be told such a thing.” But he also admitted that, after all, he only encouraged Tepco to “consider” tsunami countermeasures and did not request that it “take” specific measures.

The Fukushima crisis has revealed how Japan, which had boasted of possessing the world’s safest nuclear power plants, was ill-prepared against a severe nuclear accident.

Three reactors suffered core meltdowns after they lost their key cooling functions amid a loss of all electrical power following a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The government-appointed nuclear accident investigation panel has already issued a final report, and the government is now gradually disclosing the records of hearings conducted to people involved.

  • Starviking

    According to records of Nagura’s accounts, Nagura heard Tepco’s explanations of its tsunami estimates at the agency’s office in Tokyo in August and September 2009 as it was becoming clear that coastal areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures were hit by massive tsunami following an earthquake in 869.

    I eagerly await the Japan Times’ investigation as to why, after this apparently definitive warning of doom, no measures were taken to protect the people living in the coastal areas of Miyagi and Fukushima.

    Or maybe, as is often the case, the scientific knowledge of the tsunami and its possible recurrence was not as clear-cut as journalists would like us to believe – after all, who would leave 20,000 people to die, but pursue measures to prevent a nuclear accident?

  • Liars N. Fools

    What I see is the typical stove piping found in Japanese organizations which hinders joint action but also limits responsibility — usually to someone not in the executive offices.

    Japan, land of responsibility.

  • TimS

    I’d like to see Greenpeace’s activists protesting against wind/solar farms that are ruining natural landscapes, disturbing wildlife’s habitats, butchering millions birds and bats with wind blades and solar mirrors.

  • Richard Werkhoven

    To quote from this link:

    “While some are so old that the characters are worn away, most were erected about a century ago after two deadly tsunamis here, including one in 1896 that killed 22,000 people.”

    INCLUDING ONE IN 1986!!! (Yes emphasis – live with it)

    So some are very recent.

    So ‘largely’ is an irrelevant point here. The Tsunami risk was well known.

    To provide evidence of other stones does not provide proof of lack of the reference I made.

    Would you care to show where the stone I refer to isn’t? (yes of course that’s impossible)

  • Richard Werkhoven

    Pro nukers who try to twist the argument and argue over some other issue rather than the failure by TEPCO and the Japanese Govt to protect the people.

    I am not wrong because I mention a stone marker that the pro-nuker pretends doesn’t exist.

    TEPCO is not right because the Tsunami had other effects that could have been better managed,

    These sorts of arguments are sociopathic and indicate an inability to argue logically.

  • Starviking

    Oh, prove me dead wrong? Your first link:

    Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old.

    Nope, does not prove me wrong. Your second link:

    Some of the stones are 600 years old.

    Once again, does not prove me wrong.

    Do you know what would prove me wrong, a nice scientific link to tsunami marker stones over 1100 years old.

    Do you think you could provide that?

  • Starviking

    Once again with the reinterpretation of facts:

    The issue here is not specifically the 869 marker. That is something you have referred to constantly as if it’s relevant.

    I raised the point as an aside – you were the one who ran with it, trying to prove me wrong, mixing up my point about the stones being much later than the 869AD Tsunami.

    My point stands – the knowledge existed. Clearly there are records of the 869 Tsunami or we wouldn’t be talking about it now would we?

    The key point is how certain, and how accepted was the knowledge that the 869AD Tsunami was one of a recurrent series of tsunamis.

    The argument about coastal geography doesn’t hold up.

    So you say, yet you keep mentioning the 1896 Tsunami, a tsunami which wreaked death and destruction on the Sanriku Coast, but did nothing to the Fukushima Coast.

    Anyone who investigates that tsunami, and the others that have hit the Sanriku Coast make the tsunami-focusing ria coastline the main point when describing the wave heights and damage. You, for some reason, so not think that matters at all – and keep on referring to these tsunamis as if they had damaged the whole Tohoku Coastline.