Nuclear history repeating

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A question we’re compelled to ask more often than we’d like is: Does the nuclear industry ever learn lessons? Is it doomed to repeat its mistakes forever? You see it all the time. It goes around and around and around and around and around so fast we’re amazed it’s not unbelievably dizzy.

How about the cutting-edge EPR reactor being built at Olkiluoto in Finland with its massive schedule and budget overruns, construction defects and safety concerns? Did they avoid those mistakes when it came to building another EPR at Flamanville in France? Of course they didn’t.

There’s the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Japan that’s had eleven fires in two years despite multiple warnings from the Kashiwazaki Fire Department and advice about the storage of flammable materials.

In February, at the Hanford nuclear site in the US, work to dig up nuclear waste contaminated with plutonium had to be stopped. Why?

Problems related to the incidents included hazards not being adequately identified and responsibilities of workers not matching their training or qualifications, said Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board staff in a weekly report just released.

How could this happen?

“Worker and management responses demonstrated a failure to implement lessons learned” from previous problems encountered by other Hanford contractors, the safety board report said.

Back in Japan, the Chugoku Electric Power Co is in trouble

…it failed to conduct routine checks on 123 components of its Shimane nuclear power plant in Matsue — 74 in the No. 1 reactor and 49 in the No. 2 reactor. Some components, such as valves in piping and an emergency diesel power generator, had not been checked since 1988. The omission of these checks is serious negligence on the part of the firm… [T] the firm failed to check a component in the emergency core cooling system of the No. 1 reactor — a system that would pour a large amount of water into the reactor core to prevent a meltdown.

The guys at Chugoku are obviously forgetting their history when it comes to nuclear inspections. In 2002 it was revealed that the Tokyo Electric Power Co had falsified records concerning safety violations at its reactors for more than 20 years. It had submitted 200 false reports to the authorities. The company’s president resigned and the 17 reactors were all closed for inspections and repair. You see? Lessons haven’t been learned.

Back at Shimane nuclear power plant…

It is thought more similar cases may emerge…

You can count on it.                                  

Posted by Justin on April 16, 2010 5:22

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