— NASA’s system failure case study of Fukushima

From Mining Awareness

July 16, 2016

the NAIIC concluded that “the disaster was man-made and the result of collusion between government, the regulators and TEPCO, and a lack of governance by said parties,” citing that the organizational and regulatory systems supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions. Regulators served TEPCO’s business interests through tailored regulation and weak enforcement.“(NASA)
Nasa Fukushima failure

NASA Failure Studies [Comments added in brackets]:
October 2015 Volume 8 Issue 7

PROXIMATE CAUSE

• Loss of electricity and backup power left the Fukushima complex crippled and unable to adequately cool the reactors

UNDERLYING ISSUES

• Disregard of Regulations

• Poor Safety History

• Lack of Response to Natural Disaster Concerns

AFTERMATH

• Recommendation pertaining to the creation of a permanent committee to deal with issues regarding nuclear power in order to supervise regulators and provide security to the public.

The Great Wave of Reform The Prophetic Fallacy of the Fukushima Daiichi Meltdown

March 11, 2011, off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan: At 14:46 (2:46 p.m.) Japan Standard Time (JST) a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 43 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula. The undersea megathrust earthquake shifted the mainland of Japan an estimated 8 feet east and deviated Earth’s axis by estimates between 4 to 10 inches. The Great East Japan Earthquake generated massive tsunami waves that peaked at heights of 133 feet and travelled up to 6 miles into areas of mainland Japan… The disaster also triggered the second Level 7 International Nuclear Event (after Chernobyl) in history — the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Background

The Fukushima Daiichi Catastrophe

Analysis of the safety history of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex reveals a catastrophic failure of prediction on behalf of the plant’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) management. How could planners overlook the tsunami?

Hazards of Predicting the Future

In 1958, Arthur C. Clarke, already recognized for major contributions to the fields of rocketry and space flight, began writing a series of magazine essays that were later combined and published in 1962 as Profiles of the Future; a lexicon of universal scientific possibilities.

The book’s introductory essay, “Hazards of Prophecy, ” concerned itself with the two traps of assumptions: “failures of nerve” and “failures of imagination. ”

Failure of the imagination manifests when presently known facts are respected but vital truths are still unknown, and the possibility of the unknown (the unknown unknowns) is not confessed.

Failure of nerve, the more common fallacy (noted by Clarke), “occurs when given all the relevant facts the would-be prophet cannot see that they point to an inescapable conclusion. ”
Figure 1. Debris from the upper levels of Unit 4 lies beside the building. Source: IAEA via NASA

What happened

The seismic activity of the Great East Japan Earthquake forced the emergency shut-down feature on reactors 1, 2 and 3. Off-site electricity to the power plant was also disrupted by the tremors and backup power was tapped from a 66kV transmission line from the Tohoku Electric Power Company Network. However, the back-up line failed to power reactor 1 due to a mismatched circuit connection.

Beginning at 15:37 (3:17 p.m.) JST, the peak tsunami waves broke upon Japan and flooded and destroyed the emergency diesel generators at the Fukushima complex. Seawater cooling pumps and electric wiring system for the DC power supply for reactors 1, 2 and 4 failed shortly after. All power was effectively lost except for emergency diesel generator power to reactor 6. The tsunami also destroyed vehicles, heavy equipment and many installations.

Without power, the operators at the complex worked tirelessly to monitor and cool the overheating reactors, at one point salvaging car batteries from destroyed vehicles to power necessary equipment. Hydrogen explosions from emptying coolant reservoirs led to interruptions in the recovery operations, which failed when the Unit 2 reactor suppression chamber failed and discharged radioactive material.

Proximate cause

The loss of electric power after flooding made it difficult to effectively cool down the reactors in a timely manner. Cooling operations and observing reactor temperatures were heavily dependent on electricity for coolant injection and depressurization of the reactor and reactor containers, and removal of decay heat at the final heat sink. Lack of access due to the disaster obstructed the delivery of necessities like alternative seawater injection via fire trucks“.
[Note: Loss of cooling made it impossible to cool the reactors, not difficult.]

Underlying issues

The Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), formed on Oct. 30, 2011 to investigate the direct and indirect causes of the Fukushima accident, was the first independent commission created in the history of Japan’s constitutional government. In its legal investigation, the NAIIC concluded that “the disaster was man-made and the result of collusion between government, the regulators and TEPCO, and a lack of governance by said parties,” citing that the organizational and regulatory systems supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions. Regulators served TEPCO’s business interests through tailored regulation and weak enforcement.

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