From July 22nd, 2007 by "James"
[Note: another fire occured in the world's largest nuclear plant, on March 5, 2009. This is their eighth reported fire - ed.]
On Friday,a short news segment about the international reaction to the problems at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant aired on Japanese TV. [See the more recent video.]
As you probably know, an earthquake last week [in 2007] caused a fire and some radiation leaks at the facility, which is the world's largest of its kind. The story became huge news across the world, particularly in western countries that have nuclear power plants of their own. People that they ask on the street know about the problems that have occurred in Japan, but they are not worried about such a thing happening in their own country. One Englishman points out that (unlike Japan) England has very strict regulations, while a Frenchman states that France's nuclear power plants are better maintained than Japan's. Their statements could just be based on their own irrational notions that their countries must surely be safe from such problems, but then again, when you look at stories like these, you have to wonder if TEPCO really is maintaining global safety standards:
The seismology community agrees that the Tokai region, which includes Tokyo and Hamaoka, is due for a massive quake. The Tokyo metropolitan government has drawn up disaster plans that assume an 87 per cent probability of a magnitude 8.0 quake within 30 years. But power companies have been allowed to prepare for much smaller quakes when building nuclear plants. If the epicentre of Monday's quake had been 10 km further to the southwest, the seismology research team at Kobe University calculates that the reactor could have split and unleashed a "terrible, terrible disaster".
As it is, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has admitted to a worrying series of problems since the quake, including the stunning revelation that the Kashiwazaki plant was constructed on top of an active fault – despite Tepco's firm denials in court that this was the case. Vital reactor data on the minutes immediately after the quake have already been lost by Tepco. Numerous leaks of radiation have been detected.
Workers called inept during nuke plant fire
As black smoke belched into the air and flames melted metal parts, workers at the quake-damaged Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant stood by and watched.
That is the grim picture being painted by members of the local fire department, who had to arrive at the scene Monday to douse the fire at a transformer caused by the earthquake.
No Japanese nuclear power plants have an all-day firefighting system in which firefighting employees are ready to cope with possible fires throughout the day. The lack of such a system was revealed in reports submitted Friday to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry by 10 major Japanese electric power companies after inspections of their emergency firefighting systems.
Reports from Japan say the government has turned down an offer by the United Nations nuclear agency to send inspectors to a nuclear plant damaged by an earthquake.
-BBC, and in response to the central government's turning down of the offer:
The United Nations nuclear watchdog should be invited to inspect a nuclear power station damaged in this week's earthquake in northwestern Japan to help restore public confidence, a local official said Sunday.
I'm with the local government on this one: somebody outside of the central government/TEPCO needs to inspect these plants, and the IAEA sounds like a good choice…
Update: The Japanese government has agreed to allow IAEA inspections. Let's hope they act on whatever recommendations they receive.