March 15 (Reuters) – A General Electric Co engineer said he resigned 35 years ago over concern about the safety of a nuclear reactor design used in the now crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
Dale Bridenbaugh said the "Mark 1" design had "not yet been designed to withstand the loads" that could be experienced in a large-scale accident.
"At the time, I didn't think the utilities were taking things seriously enough," Bridenbaugh, now retired, said in a phone interview. "I felt some of the plants should have been shut down while the analysis was completed, and GE and the utilities didn't want to do that, so I left."
Bridenbaugh said that to the best of his knowledge, the design flaws he had identified were addressed at the Daiichi plant, requiring "a fairly significant expense."
The Aptos, California, resident spoke earlier with ABC News, a unit of Walt Disney Co.
GE in a statement said it has had "40 years of safe operations" of its boiling water reactor Mark 1 technology.
Bridenbaugh said that after leaving GE he started a firm to advise state governments on safety issues. Like many, he said he is watching closely as events unfold in Japan.
"I feel sorry for the guys over there trying to handle that thing," he said. "On the other hand you can't say the Fukushima situation is a direct result of the Mark 1 containment. It is a direct result of the earthquake, tsunami and the fact the Mark 1 containment is less forgiving than some of the other reactor versions."
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The earthquake disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant north of Tokyo was foretold in a report published two decades ago by a U.S. regulatory agency.
In a 1990 report, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the country’s power plants, identified earthquake-induced diesel generator failure and power outage leading to failure of cooling systems as one of the “most likely causes” of nuclear accidents from an external event.
While the report was cited in a 2004 statement by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, adequate measures to address the risk were not taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant in Fukushima prefecture, said Jun Tateno, a former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and professor at Chuo University.
“It’s questionable whether Tokyo Electric really studied the risks outlined in the report,” Tateno said in an interview. “That they weren’t prepared for a once in a thousand year occurrence will not go over as an acceptable excuse.”
Hajime Motojuku, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric, said today he couldn’t immediately confirm whether or not the company was aware of the report.
The 40-year-old Fukushima plant was hit by Japan’s strongest earthquake on record March 11 only to have its power and cooling systems knocked out by the 7-meter (23-foot) tsunami that followed.
Lacking power to cool reactors, engineers vented radioactive steam to release pressure, leading to as many as four explosions that blew out containment walls at the plant 135 miles (220 kilometers) north of the capital.
While the appropriate measures that should have been implemented are still to be evaluated, more extensive waterproofing of the underground portion of the reactor could have helped prevent the cooling systems’ failure, said Tateno, who questions the use of nuclear power in Japan because of its seismic activity.
Engineering of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant or its age are unlikely causes of the problem, said Tateno, author of a book titled “The Coming Age of Scrapping Nuclear Plants.”
While nuclear power has been supported as a way of producing vast quantities of energy compared with other sources, “it will be difficult to get any more nuclear plants built going forward” in Japan, Tateno said.
Greed and Incompetence Are she Source of the Nuclear Catastrophe in Japan
Once again, it seems like greed and incompetence are the source of the current nuclear catastrophe in Japan as GE and the Japanese utilities had been warned 35 years ago about the design flaws that needed to be resolved to meet large-scale accidents safety. 15 years later a report published by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission also confirmed the risks and questioned the fact that Tokyo Electric was trying to address those risks.