The nuclear accident at the Japanese Fukushima-1 power plant could have been prevented, many scientists and experts worldwide believe. Although repeatedly warned about the plant’s nuclear safety guidelines being dangerously out of date, the Japanese government preferred to turn a blind eye to the problem. Voice of Russia’s Svetlana Kalmykova reports.
Secret diplomatic correspondence published by WikiLeaks evidences the government’s awareness of the periodic emergencies registered at Fukushima-1. As far back as 2008, experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Tokyo that stations built 40 years ago may fail to withstand a powerful earthquake.
The world’s attention is now locked on a recently published article arguing that the tragedy at the nuclear power plant could have been avoided had its designers heeded the advice of engineers. In the mid 1970s, a team of experts submitted a memo saying that the reactor would most likely explode in case of malfunction in the cooling system. But designers then ignored the expert opinion for some unknown reasons and put the reactors into operation as is. As a result, a huge nuclear complex located in the world’s most quake-prone area on the ocean shore turned out to be totally unprepared for such a calamity, Director of Russia’s Green Cross program for nuclear and radiation safety Vladimir Kuznetsov summarized.
"I cannot believe that they proceeded with building a nuclear power plant in a coastal area, with its constant threat of destructive tsunamis. There are not even protective dams or sea walls to somehow defend the buildings from external disturbances. The IAEA has long since warned the Japanese authorities that the station does not meet seismic norms, considering that the Fukushima operator built nuclear plants to only withstand a 6 magnitude quake," Vladimir Kuznetsov said.
On March 21, Japan’s National Nuclear Security Agency released a report drawn up several days before the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The paper said that Japanese experts repeatedly criticized Fukushima-1’s operator TERSO for major errors in the maintenance of the station. So why did everyone turn a blind eye? Such behavior might be brought about by the Japanese mentality - the priority of saving face - or by professional ethics in view of nuclear energy being one of Japan’s most secretive industries. So, why should they air their linens in public? The situation was exacerbated by the reaction of the government which was concealing the real scope of the disaster until recently. This is absolutely unacceptable, co-chairman of Russia’s Ecodefense ecological group Vladimir Slivyak believes.
"Of course, one should not act like that when it comes to radiation pollution. On the one hand, this is a problem at their facility, definitely. But on the other hand, even with a minimal level of environmental knowledge you will understand you that radiation will spread to other countries, making this a matter of concern beyond the boundaries of a single company," Vladimir Slivyak stressed.
The IAEA assessed the Fukushima-1 nuclear accident as level six out of seven on an international scale of nuclear events. Ukraine’s Chernobyl tragedy remains the only level 7 disaster to have ever occurred. According to the latest expert assessments, Japan is past the worst of it now: the situation has been brought under control, the destruction of reactors has been averted and power supply to the cooling system is being restored. But specialists insist that precious time was lost during the first few hours after the accident. Furthermore, the Japanese have yet to provide accurate information on the amount of nuclear fuel at the Fukushima-1 power plant. According to different estimates, it exceeds that of Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, nearly fivefold.