TEPCO's Fukushima Tsunami Plan Was One Page Long

The AP uncovers more evidence of a lack of preparation for a disaster

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Here's more evidence supporting a culture of collusion pre-Fukushima: Japan's nuclear regulators trusted that the plant could withstand major tsunami waves "based on a single-page memo from the plant operator nearly a decade ago." The Associated Press obtained the flimsy 2001 document which had been collecting dust and was never updated over the next decade.

In the one sheet, the now-crippled nuclear plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, couldn't envision a scenario in which waves would breach the facility and prepared for an earthquake that turned out to be "four times more powerful" than they planned for. Yet, as the AP notes, the document's "scant details" and "wildly optimistic" projections were enough to convince the regulators at Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that the utility was adequately prepared for a disaster.

For all the symbolism in TEPCO's tsunami plan being a mere one-page memo, the apparent collusion between Japan's regulators, utilities and government has been consistently noted since the devastating March 11th quake. We've read a Reuters investigation accusing the utility of downplaying dangers and ignoring research indicating a major quake could occur, a Wall Street Journal report indicating that TEPCO officials could have retrofitted the plant's reactors with new cooling technologies but the utility decided not to, and a particularly striking, detailed account from the New York Times outlining instances "in which operators underestimated or hid seismic dangers to avoid costly upgrades and keep operating."

In each of these articles a similar refrain emerges, and it always seems to be something along the lines of what one Kobe University professor just told the Associated Press:

The problem with the plant's tsunami preparedness didn't lie with the limitations of science back in 2001 [when the tsunami memo was written]. The problem was that TEPCO and regulators didn't look at risk factors more carefully.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.