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A Dangerous Mix: Earthquakes and Nuclear Power Plants

My Facebook friend, Frankie Chan from Hongkong just posted a link on his wall to a Facebook Note in Chinese, with an English title: “The experience from an insider of nuclear power station”. [1] Reading the note, I realized that it was translated from a Japanese article by Norio Hirai, a former piping engineer from a Nuclear Power Plant. Norio passed away in 1997 because of cancer.

I spent 4 years in Japan, and have a lot of great memories about Japan and her people. I have been frantically tried to call some of my friends and still haven’t got in touch with some of them. Fortunately they are living far away from Sendai area.

I got a goose bump reading the note, but it would take a long time for me to translate it to share with you. Accordingly, I went to search for an English version on the internet and instead I found Norio Hirai’s original article in Japanese with a loosely translated title: I want to know, what is the nuclear power actually? [2].

In the introduction of his writing with a sub-title, I’m not a Nukenik, Norio wrote:

I’m not an nukenik (anti nuclear power activist). For 20 years I worked at a nuclear power plant. While there are some controversies, whether to favor the nuclear power, or nuclear power is dangerous or safe, I’d like to talk about ‘the real story about nuclear power’ that were unknown to most of the people. If you are patience enough to read through the end of the article, then you will find that contrary to what you have in mind, there are many workers being contaminated by radiation as well as many discrepancies or deviations from what have been reported on a daily basis.

I tried Google Translate tool, but as expected, the result was so terrible. Fortunately I found another article in English with the title that I quoted for this post by Mari Takenouchi and I’m happy to put the link shown in the references list below.

This is what Mari quoted from Norio Hirai’s work:

A Voice from Insider

According to the late Hirai Norio, a piping specialist and supervisor for nuclear power plant construction for 20 years, the earthquake resistance of nuclear power plants is very much in doubt. He pointed out various types of dangers, based on his many years of work and empirical knowledge. Hirai wrote that the basic cause of the weakness of these important infrastructures, which seem to be earthquake resistant, is that there is a lot of emphasis on the planning stage, but that not enough attention is given to the actual construction process. He further stressed that the same thing could be applied to the construction of nuclear power plants.

Like Norio, I’m not a nukenik. My first job was with the Nuclear Energy Agency back at the end of 1970th. However, looking at what is going on after the 9.0 earthquake in Sendai, Japan following by the devastation of tsunami and the exploisions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants, I believe we should take a second look on the nuclear energy policies in every country, particularly in the earthquake prone countries, including the United States.

Finally, here is the translation from the last few paragraphs of Norio’s work that I’d like to share with you:

Why people always said about peaceful use of nuclear energy? As I have repeatedly said, there is no peaceful use of the nuclear energy.

That’s why, I have a request. Every morning, I ask you to firmly look at your kids or your grand kids’ faces. If Japan just treated the nuclear energy this way, my biggest concern is not only the accident, but the destruction of the plants by an earth quake. If we keep going the way it is right now, we will reach a point of no return. I really want you to know this fact.

In addition, I don’t agree to expand the nuclear power plants from now on, and I become an opponent that absolutely against the new construction of nuclear power plants. All the nuclear power plants that are in operations should also be closed down.

As long as there are nuclear power, there is no peace on earth. Let’s leave a beautiful earth to our kids.

 

Sources:

  1. “The experience from an insider of nuclear power station”.
  2. 原発がどんなものか知ってほしい (I want to know, what is nuclear power actually?)
  3. A Dangerous Mix: Earthquakes and Nuclear Power Plants, by Mari Takenouchi

 

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Mylsoup March 15, 2011, 5:37 am

    Hmm, my first reaction is to point out that the plants actually did withstand a quake that was far more powerful than expected by the planners (planning miss). The actual problem turned out to be the tsunami that swamped the emergency generators at Fukushima 1, causing a blackout (planning miss 2, should have put them higher). Other plants that went into emergency shutdown didn’t experience a blackout and their reactors are now safely in cold shutdown. So it was the long blackout that destabilized the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. However, when I think some more about it there are a couple of possible cases of quake damage. One reactor was behaving relatively well (I think it was number 3) until they switched cooling systems. One system went off but the new didn’t start up. Which rapidly led to exposure of the core. Another possibility of quake damage (construction flaw?) is the hole in the suppression pool of reactor 2. That really spooked the experts. It wasn’t supposed to happen at all.

  • Ai March 15, 2011, 6:49 pm

    Hi,
    I’m new to this blog. I knew about his article and has been wondering why none of the media mentions about this even thought he was actually working in the very same plant that exploded. Now I know that the huge sponsors are the construction companies, plant makers, TEPCO and there is no way they can report things like this. I am looking for the full English translation for this. But I haven’t been able to find it. Do you know if anyone has the full translated article?

  • drt March 15, 2011, 9:11 pm

    @Mylsoup: [quote]It wasn’t supposed to happen at all.[/quote]

    Would this proof what the late Norio Hirai had been saying, i.e., even when the design and blueprints are perfect, things cannot be done well if there are not enough professionals on the site? Your account of the accidents just reminded me to the catastrophic predictions in his writing. I’m not sure if it was bad that cancer had shortened his life and he was not able to see that most of his predictions indeed happened. However, I’m sure it would not be good for him either to witness the suffering of so many innocent people due to the nuclear accidents after the earth quake and tsunami hit that he had been predicted all along. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.

  • drt March 15, 2011, 9:26 pm

    @Ai: [quote]Do you know if anyone has the full translated article?[/quote]

    No I don’t. However, part of the article by Mari Takenouchi that I have listed in Reference 3 above was taken from his writing. Also, if you click on the word ‘Up’ on top of that article, you will be taken to the homepage of STOP Nuclear Plants BEFORE Huge Quake Strikes!, with so many good articles on Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquake Accidents.

  • Ai March 18, 2011, 5:39 pm

    I hope he is resting in peace now. Thanks for the info!

  • bo2o March 22, 2011, 2:34 am

    Mylsoup:

    From what TEPCO is spewing, the tsunami had a lot to do with this disaster. I concur in a way, but not absolutely. The assessment of damages still needs to be investigated along with the design of the infrastructure (not just the plant), i.e., why weren’t the generators on a higher ground level or why didn’t they use indoor models. BTW, what do you think causes tsunamis? Go figure.

  • Kayo March 22, 2011, 2:11 pm

    I put English version of Norio Hirai article here
    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=171836299532934

    If you like to read please go there.
    貴方の日本の友人達がご無事でありますように!

  • drt March 22, 2011, 5:27 pm

    @bo2o: Thanks for stopping by and the comment.

    @Kayo: Thanks for the translation and the link.

    I haven’t been able to get in touch with my OnShi or his family. However, I hope they are okay since they are in Chiba.

  • bo2o March 24, 2011, 8:27 am

    There are several people that I know of who have been involved doing speeches against GENPATSUs in Japan. All of the people were insiders who just got fed up with all the covering up. Just google the following:

    Leuren Moret
    Yoichi Shimatsu
    Kei Sugaoka

  • bo2o March 24, 2011, 8:29 am

    BTW, I was in Chiba bailed to the Kansai area right after the eq…

  • drt March 26, 2011, 11:00 pm

    @bo2o Thanks for the references and your info on Chiba.

  • Taisuke March 28, 2011, 5:18 am

    Actually, it isn’t sure if Mr.Hirai was the real or not because there is few info about him. There is when he passed away, but there isn’t how old he was; however, the article is verisimilitude, and I cannot believe that it is fake.

  • Kayo April 7, 2011, 11:21 pm

    Mr. Hirai was the real person. Someone was looking at his Web site. If you see the site, it is posthumous work of Mr. Hirai himself and is correct. Also, there was a person who participates in his lecture meeting and spoke, too.

  • Kayo April 8, 2011, 2:49 pm

    I am not an activist against nuclear power. I do not know it is fake or not, but I know Japan is in crisis now because of the nuclear power plant as he said. I just want to children’s happiness.

  • drt April 8, 2011, 5:51 pm

    Thanks, Kayo for the replies. I’m so sad watching the aftershock with 7.1 magnitude yesterday. I was at work at that time, and was losing contact with my counterpart in Japan for a while before I saw the news on TV. Fortunately, when finally I got in touch with my counterpart in Japan, they said that they were okay. However, I was so sad reading the fact that a few people have lost their life and many more suffered from injuries. I could only wish that the disaster would go away after this last hit and the people in Tohoku area will recover and rebuild their homeland. As for the nuclear power station problems, I’m speechless and have nothing to add beside my prayer.

  • bo2o May 13, 2011, 6:26 pm

    To: drt & Kayo

    Back in the initial period of building genpatsus and also considering Japan’s energy situation, I feel that nuclear energy (NE) was an appropriate step for the livelihood of the country. I am not against NE, I just feel the industry should be a whole lot more transparent. TEPCO is a good example of what will come about when shaded politics and greed powers a company. Mussolini called it “corporate fascism”, where no matter how humanistically wrong, it is made right because the elite caste level says it is. I wish the Japanese people will realize the dirtiest secret that these elitist keep hidden, and that is “The People” of the nation hold the power. Fukushima Dai-Ni genpatsu is a hopeless situation and it’s the Japanese People’s responsibility to keep the government and companies like TEPCO on their feet until some kind of hope comes about!

    Kayo, thank you for Mr. Hirai’s translations. The link above is where I posted his literature. I’ve edited some parts in my own sense of wording by how I think Norio may have felt.

  • drt May 14, 2011, 1:01 am

    @bo2o: Thanks for posting the link showing the picture of Mr. Hirai. I was too busy this past few days for a lost in the family, but I think the picture there answered the doubt raised in Taisuke’s comment above.

    ps: I placed the original link in the URL form, so when someone click on your name, they will be taken to the same link you posted.

  • bo2o May 18, 2011, 8:30 am

    To: drt

    Very sorry for your loss. I hope you’re feeling better.

    Someone has upped the video of that picture, it’s in 10 parts. Here’s the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/311movie#p/c/C09012C9C4A23A93/8/0x1AQ5HRu0o

  • drt May 18, 2011, 5:08 pm

    Thanks bo2o for your kind words and the link. I hope someone may translate these presentations into English so more people can follow what Hirai-san had described there.

  • Kayo May 18, 2011, 7:13 pm

    To bo2o, Thanks for using Mr. Hirai’s translations and for finding the video. The video & your link were linked with the place of the note of Mr. Hirai’s English version.

    To drt, Thank you for telling me.

  • Jorn Rash June 13, 2011, 6:12 pm

    USA Radiation Plume Maps

    I am working on a new site nuclearpowerdanger.com I have created some radioactive plume maps based solely on wind. Working on more specific map methodology.

    http://www.nuclearpowerdanger.com/plume-maps/sitemap-nuclear-power-plant-plumes-25mi.php

    These are existing plumes of radiation caused by “normal” releases.

    My methodology is outlined here

    http://www.nuclearpowerdanger.com/plume-maps/methodology.php

    Jorn

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