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Fukushima, Japan Constructing an Effective First Response

by liamdavis
Tags: constructing, effective, fukushima, japan
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May15-11, 06:27 AM
P: 108
Quote Quote by liamdavis View Post
I however, do not believe that this was unavoidable. If it was, it cements the anti-nuke power argument...
Bravo. If the industry and it's regulatory agencies are unable to embrace the monumental failure of their systems here, then there is no hope for nuclear power.
May15-11, 08:06 AM
P: 546
There are two new blog posts by EX-SKF regarding the death of a worker at Daiichi. It's probably a heart attack, not radiation connected, but I think there are still plenty of things to discuss about that event.

According to him, there was no doctor at Fukushima Daiichi. So they just put the man inside a TEPCO vehicle and carried him to J-Village 20km away. Then doctors there performed CPR and an ambulance transported him into a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

So, let's start with the facts. There are hundreds of workers doing all kind of technical works at Fukushima Daiichi right now. It's a very dangerous work environment.
There's debris everywhere, leftovers by the tsunami and the explosions, probably unstable buildings, everything could collapse at every moment. Not to forget the radiation.
Probably one of the most dangerous work environments currently in Japan, if not the most dangerous.
And that there are hundreds of people working makes an accident very likely. First thing I'd try to do in that kind of situation would be to ensure safety of all workers. That would be safety principles, safety gear (helmets, dosimeters etc.) and, of course, an effective first response in case of accidents. And, because of the special situation we have there, a team of radiological skilled doctors.

But apparently, there was nothing like this at Fukushima. Not even an ambulance on stand by. Which makes me really angry. They are basically leaving their people alone in case of any emergency.

If there's a high risk work environment, rescue teams should be on stand-by IMO.

Here's an example what they are doing in Germany:

A few years ago, a chemical plant near cologne caught fire. Firefighters tried to get the fire under control since it was theatening large storage tanks. If there would've been an explosion, dozens of firefighters would have been hurt or killed.
So they took precautions. They activated rescue teams all over the city. Over fifty rescue vehicles and hundreds of rescue workers were put on standy by near the scene, just in case the whole complex exploded (which fortunately didn't).
And that's standard here in Germany. Even if there's no immediate danger, we're deploying rescue teams to events just in case there goes something wrong. For example that's part of the rescue gear they put in place for loveparade 2008.
And now there are hundreds of people working in a stricken NPP and there's nothing. That's unbelievable.
Not even a medical helicopter to provide airlift. It could've been parked outside the exclusion zone... but no, they didn't use something like this.
Again, in Germany there's a law that rescue workers must be on scene during 15 minutes. That's why we have dozens of medical helicopters. I know that rescue helicopters are a new concept in japan (there are a few "Doctor Helis" if I remember correct), but still they could've asked the JSDF for assistance...

To make matters short: In my opinion, not having any rescue capability on scene is totally ineffective (plus it's probably resulting in mental stress for the workers, since they know that they are doomed if something happens) and outright criminal.
May15-11, 10:51 AM
P: 1
Poor disaster management:

Japanese government did not have a comprehensive disaster management program in place. Not only did failures manifest in Fukushima Dai-ichi but everywhere the tsunami hit.

Japanese response arguably worse than FEMA @ New Orleans post- Katrina.

'Just in time' inventory flow systems don't work when roads, communications have broken down. Centralized stores of emergency goods such as unperishable food, water, medical supplies, blankets and tents are needed, instead. Japan was left with a means to order these online without the means to effect delivery.

TEPCO followed routine for station shutdown but was stymied by lack of available fresh water.

Fire department arrived quickly and had pumper trucks ready. Immediately after the tsunami there was little radiation on the plant grounds so firefighters and trained crew were able to connect usable pumps to reactor plumbing.

TEPCO hesitated to pump seawater into pressure vessels until upper- management could 'sign off'. Plant managers lost valuable hours waiting for approval, during which cores began to melt down. Managers were afraid to destroy reactors by using seawater, reactors were destroyed by heat, instead.

TEPCO negligence: 10k tons of slightly radioactive demineralized water (primary turbine drive fluid) in Central Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility was available to be pumped by firetruck into the feedwater lines to cool the cores/spent fuel pools after the battery power/RCIC failed. This water is removed from reactors during maintenance. During reactor operation this water is boiled in core, steam drives turbines. It carries some radioactivity but all operating reactors contain water w/ same levels of radioactivity. The water in the CRWDF would have been no more radioactive than the water already within the 3 reactors and spent fuel pools.

This water was later pumped into the sea.

Water would flow by way of relief valves back into Central Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility. 10k tons/cubic meters of water which would have provided enough mass to cool the three cores plus spent fuel pools until power was restored. Worst case scenario would have been a dozen fire trucks and hose lines to be disposed of as low- level radioactive waste. Managers simply 'forgot' about the tons of fresh water in CRWDF available as emergency coolant that was sitting right under their noses.

More TEPCO negligence: operators also 'forgot' about spent fuel in unit 4 until water had boiled away. They relied on rate tables and did not account for leaks in spent fuel pool plumbing.

TEPCO was concerned first and foremost about its 'investment' and managers on site did not have authority to address the core emergencies.
May15-11, 04:07 PM
P: 30
There is so much to be said for foresight in disaster management as opposed to reacting to events after the fact. Afterwords there is seldom time to formulate an appropriate response. Let alone locating the necessary materials, the people with skills to implement there use and get all of that to the place where it is needed.

People struck by the earthquake had no warning. The tsunami came within fifteen minutes instead of the thirty minutes that had been the standard assumption. So (some) people had some opportunity to move and avoid bodily injury from that. The rigorous power plant design resulted in survival of the plants, successful shutdown of the reactor and implementation of on site power generation.

After the loss of onsite power the design still bought about eight hours to mitigate the oncoming disaster. This is a remarkable window of opportunity that many disaster management, particularly those that have been thru a disaster, would drool over. We can see by the outcome at Fukushima that competent is not a word that can be associated with handling of the post event response. This despite the correct engineering, and successful implementation of, many safety systems that provided adequate time to mitigate the unfolding consequences.

There were failures here at many levels in addition to TEPCO. I do not want to beat a dead horse belaboring the failures except as they are instructive to directing future planned responses with respect to disaster mitigation.

As many engineering students participate here I want to point out the inadequacy of correct design as a freestanding matter. I suppose I want to highlight it because it is so glaringly obvious that the engineering can be correct and avoidable catastrophic events can still happen.

Engineers, particularly young ones, may not be in a position to speak to, or effect policy about dangers inherit in products resulting from their designs. However, they are likely the first to be aware of the dangerous potentialities. With knowledge comes responsibility. Not ultimate accountability for the eventual misuse of a product. But, the opportunity is present for input, and may be even more so after Fukushima plays out. Do not let it go to waste.

More later.

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