“I’m not playing pretend about how I felt reading this report. It was, at times, confronting for someone asking Australians to give consideration to nuclear.”
A very important document came to light this week. It’s the Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station published by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. It provides an incredibly detailed account of the events that transpired before, during and after the terrible dual natural disasters of the Sendai quake and tsunami(s) that crippled the Daiichi plant.
While I have not managed to read every word, what I have covered I found riveting and challenging . From my position of a nuclear proponent, it did nothing to dull my rational support for the rapid deployment of nuclear power as an essential climate change solution. However there is no denying this report makes for some pretty amazing reading regarding the challenges that were faced and largely overcome in some really horrible circumstances to bring the plant back under control. To that end, I see that the report will serve equally well those who like to play on fear as those who wish to appeal to rationality, because it honestly provides ample support for both!
That’s one reason I’m not playing pretend about how I felt reading this report. It was, at times, confronting for someone asking Australians to give consideration to nuclear. Perhaps then, a bit of a breakdown about what I read that went to my “fear” centres (which, I must respectfully acknowledge, are also a part of my empathy centres for those involved, and that is no bad thing), and those things I learned that reinforced my rational approach to nuclear power. Fear comes first, which I hope you will agree is quite appropriate!!!
- The workers involved were God damn heroes. They worked in very trying conditions, under great uncertainty, and many in the midst of personal tragedy from the natural disasters.
- A couple of workers did indeed receive some elevated radiation doses of about 678 mSv. Yes, I get that that’s not the end of the world, but nor is it what someone should get doing their job.
- Some pretty high levels of radiation were recorded at the site as the event unfolded
- With the total failure of not just the plants but everything around them, these workers had little information at times and had to make things up as they went along.
- There was elevated radiation in the exclusion zone. Still is to the best of my knowledge but far less than in these early stages
- There seems to have been failures of primary reactor containment
Now, what spoke to my rationality?
- The natural disasters were on a truly breathtaking scale. Japan sank by nearly one metre. There were seven tsunamis, up to 15m in height. I still can’t get my head around this.
- The death tolls from the disasters is about 20,000, with 500,000 homes destroyed. Deaths from the failure of the plants? Zero. I find playing up to the fear from the plants to be deeply disrespectful to all those who lost loved ones and homes in that horrible 7 mins.
- Fukushima Daiini? A little more modern, same exposure to force, the events there were a comparative non-issue
- If it were available, I should imagine many such gripping reports could be produced from the dramas that must have unfolded across Japan that day as people scrambled to save lives and deal with carnage. But we will never read them.
- It would appear that at no time was the spent fuel exposed. This is the first time I have seen this fact.
- The spent fuel that was in dry cask storage, and located very close to the coast, seems to have been completely untroubled. A vindication for safe management of high level nuclear waste if ever there was one.
- As I always knew must have been the case, the total release of radiation is but a fraction of that of Chernobyl (4.5% to be precise). The two events, while both meeting the criteria for the highest event rating, remain poles apart in severity.
- While not covered in the report, the arbitrary continued halt to operations at other nuclear plants is simply driving up demand for fossil fuels in Japan, as is the case in Germany where they want to ditch theirs. For reasons explained elsewhere on this site, I regard that as seriously bad news.