This seems to have become something of a cliche over the last decade. Last week saw another accident at a nuclear power plant – this time in Fukui in the south west of Japan. A pipe which carried superheated pressurised steam from the secondary cooling system exploded killing (boiling) 4 employees. It hadn’t been sonically checked for decades, and was only visually inspected, despite warnings from vendors last year. The supposed 10mm pipe had corroded down to 1.4mm at the time it exploded. Amazingly, the government say this was OK. It hadn’t been thoroughly checked in 28 years. Yes, that’s not a typo – 28 years.
I’ve held off on blogging this to see how it would unfold (and because I tend to rant on this subject), and in many ways it did as expected – stories of goverment agencies accepting safety reports based on ‘economic inspections’ (i.e. looking at the pipe) instead of soniccally testing the pipe thickness, and of course, the guy at the top would never resign. It’s not his fault right? I mean, what are you worried about, that steam wasn’t radioactive right? It’s only 4 people right?
My opinion on the culture of the people involved in the nuclear industry in Japan is that they should be banned from using nuclear energy until they start taking it seriously, and let’s say it – if any country knows the bad side of the atom, it’s Japan, but this doesn’t seem to have created a much safer approach to it’s use. This was no Chernobyll, no 3-Mile Island, but I think it’s just a matter of time before it is because no one seems to realise how high the price is for not watching these things.