Why Panic Caused More Deaths than Radiation at Fukushima | Inverse

It’s been four-and-a-half years since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident. Today, a report in The New York Times notes that, in that time, nobody has died from radiation directly. Nobody’s even been “sickened.” While that seems miraculous, there were, however, 1,600 stress-related deaths in the aftermath of the meltdown


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  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Failed Risk Analysis that Felled Fukushima

    It’s been five years since a massive 2011 earthquake hit Japan, including a devastating tsunami that led to the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    So, where stands the aftermath of the power plant disaster? Has the crisis subsided? Or has official Japan — as so often happens — papered over lingering problems with news reports that insist, “No one was killed by radiation, because levels outside the plant itself were too low”?

    More important, what lessons, if any, have we learned?

    Aftermath of the power plant disaster
    First, here are some facts:

    1. Displaced population
    The widespread radiation across the northeastern Japan led to evacuation of more than 400,000 individuals, 160,000 of them from within 20km of Fukushima. A majority of those displaced — in excess of 100,000 people — remain homeless.

    2. Removal of the melted nuclear fuel
    Yet to begin is the difficult task of removing the melted nuclear fuel from the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants.

    Decommissioning of the nuclear power plant is said to be a process that will take 30 to 40 years.

    3. More storage tanks for radioactive water needed
    The more immediate concern is an accumulation of groundwater that continues to flow into the basements of reactor buildings where melted nuclear fuel is located.

    Every day, 150 tons of contaminated water is generated and needs to be contained.

    4. Freezing underground soil
    Tepco is gambling on a scheme to freeze the underground soil at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to stem the accumulating flow of radioactive groundwater beneath the site.

    5. Indictment
    At the end of February, prosecutors in Japan — bowing to public pressure — indicted three former Tepco executives. They were charged with criminal negligence for their role in the reactor meltdowns after the earthquake and tsunami five years ago.

    Safety assessments designed to confirm safety
    Another concern is that “safety assessments are often designed to confirm safety,” according to Ewing. “Safety requirements must challenge the safety analysis.” If that had been properly done, “What’s overlooked might not have been overlooked.”

    Third, Ewing said, “I’m speculating here, but safety analyses designed to confirm safety can lead to complacency.”

    Consider the lack of protection provided for backup diesel engines at Fukushima. The safety assumption about the nuclear power plants was based on an “incomplete safety analysis,” he said.


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