A year after Japan’s worst nuclear power disaster struck the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, a nuclear safety critic said Friday that sufficient measures have yet to be taken to prevent a similar accident from occurring.
Today marks the first anniversary of the disaster, in which a nuclear chain reaction hit critical mass, releasing radiation 20,000 times higher than normal.
The reaction began at a processing facility — not a power plant — when three workers sidestepped safety procedures and added an unusually large amount of a nitric acid solution to a uranium compound.
Michiaki Furukawa, a scientist with the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, said revisions to laws that require more inspections of nuclear facilities don’t go far enough because the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission is short of qualified staff and because inspections are not rigorous enough.
Since the accident the NSC has increased the number of full-time staff from 23 to 51 and has added 41 part-time technical consultants.
“I appreciate they (NSC) are improving. But we need a large number of experienced people. The (current) number is not sufficient,” Furukawa said at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, in Tokyo.
A handout from the information center, a private organization, also criticizes the nature of the inspections.
“These inspections are, after all, a tour of the facilities by the operators,” the handout says. “It is doubtful that these inspections will truly prevent future accidents.”
He pointed out that the Tokai disaster happened seven years after the most recent inspection of the JCO Co. processing facility, where the chain reaction was triggered.
Furukawa also blamed the Science and Technology Agency for approving the site in the first place, as the conversion building is located less than 200 meters from a residential area.
“Throughout the history of the nuclear industry in the whole world, I don’t know of a case where ordinary people are exposed to neutrons” with the exception of the Tokai disaster, Furukawa said.
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