Reviewing the underestimations and overestimations of the Fukushima Nuclear Incident

On the underestimation side of the Fukushima incident, was the initial assessment that the problem would be a INES 4 incident that would be less than Three Mile Island. This was accurate at the point that it was assessed but because of problems and difficulties at the reactors and then at the fuel ponds caused this to be an INES 6 incident. INES 6 is between Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The IAEA chief indicated that the Fukushima nuclear emergency could still go on for weeks, if not months, given the damage to the plant. There will be ongoing efforts to fully control and then clean up the situation

There was also an underestimation of the issues at the fuel ponds.

TEPCO (the japanese utility that managed the reactors) was slow to respond to some of the issues as outlined in this Wall Street Journal article TEPCO was trying to save the plant assets.

“This disaster is 60% man-made,” said one government official. “They failed in their initial response. It’s like Tepco dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin.”

Government efforts also were plagued with delays. Japan’s military, the Self-Defense Forces, didn’t participate in cool-down efforts in a big way until Wednesday, after four of the six reactors had suffered damage and the remaining two showed signs of heating as well. A military spokesman said forces didn’t move in because they weren’t requested by Tepco. A Tepco spokesman declined to comment on the issue specifically, saying in general the company is in contact with the government.

Even a swifter response would have faced grave challenges. The quake and the tsunami cut off the plant from nearly all communications in the crucial early hours, an eyewitness told the Journal.

Kazuma Yokota, a safety inspector with Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, was at the plant at the time. He ducked under a desk as the temblor struck with a force that cracked the walls, he recalled. He then moved to his monitoring office, a 15-minute drive away. “There was no power, no phone, no fax, no Internet,” he said. He wasn’t able to get a backup generator working until that night.

Overestimations

Recently there was an incorrect reading made at Fukushima which indicated that there was radiation 10 million times higher than normal. The reading was incorrectly made. There is radiation but not that high at the plant.

Several European governments have openly rebuked EU energy chief Guenther Oettinger, after the commissioner’s reference to a Japanese “apocalypse” last week sent financial markets into a spin. (Global stock markets reacted with alarm to the energy chief’s comments, with a spokeswoman quickly clarifying that they were not based on any new information.

Oettinger’s remarks drew a sharp market reaction.

The Euro Stoxx 50 closed down 2.3% at 2721.24, falling for the third consecutive day, with the market sliding after Oettinger’s remarks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled late morning (March 16, 2011) New York time after Oettinger spoke. There were also impacts on commodities, treasuries, bonds and currency.)

French energy minister Eric Besson said he pulled Oettinger aside on Monday (21 March) before an extraordinary meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels, in order to warn the German politician of what was to come.

“I regret some statements which caused shock in France. There’s absolutely no need to feed the neurosis,” Besson told journalists after the meeting.

Asked whether it was the reference to an “apocalypse”, statements that Japan’s crisis was in the “hands of God”, or the commissioner’s suggestion that some European nuclear plants will fail as-yet-undefined ‘stress tests’, Besson simply responded “all of it”.

Sources confirm Besson’s criticism at the meeting, adding that Belgian energy minister Paul Magnette also indicated that he “regrets the reaction of the commission”.

Speaking at a separate press conference after the ministerial meeting, Oettinger defended his earlier remarks. “Some people are more cautious in their assessment than I might have been,” he said. “My assessment was not one that created any panic.”

The Commissioner has been making contradictory statements on Europe’s nuclear future and his rhetoric has been damaging, according to many stakeholders who question his suitability for his current role. EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger is under fire for pre-judging nuclear stress tests in Europe.

The French energy minister on Tuesday strongly defended the use of nuclear energy, highlighting a widening rift in Europe over the future of the technology since the crisis at reactors in Japan. The energy minister, Éric Besson, said it was his “profound conviction that nuclear energy will stay in Europe and the world one of the core energies in the 21st century.”

There was the usual shrill claims and charges from Greenpeace and their supposed “experts”

[Anti-nuclear “expert”] Helen Caldicott added in an email to this writer [Stephen Lendman] that the situation is “beyond terrifying!!!” Moreover, downplaying the potential severity is outrageous, irresponsible and criminal. Literally, millions of lives potentially are at risk. Further, nothing short of shutting down and dismantling all nuclear facilities is crucial. They’re all ticking time bombs waiting to explode, especially ones in seismically active areas.

At worst, however, entire countries, regions or planet earth may be catastrophically harmed. Potentially, Japan’s meltdown triggered that type event. Full scale damage control is concealing it, or at least the possibility that it’s happening.

Chernobyl’s disaster, in fact, affected the entire Northern Hemisphere, killing almost a million people. Multiple Japanese reactor meltdowns may far exceed it, Grossman saying:

“Nuclear power plants are, in fact, life-threatening wherever they are – they represent the most dangerous way to boil water ever devised.” Readily available “(w)ind, solar and geothermal energy and other forms of safe, clean power would” prevent the deadly fallout from Japan’s catastrophe, threatening the entire Pacific rim and beyond, but using them would be bad for business. Companies like GE have plenty of clout to prevent it, placing bottom line priorities above humanity’s survival.

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