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Back to the future: the restart of Japanese nuclear power plants
Robert J.Doctor of Geophysics, University of Tokyo
First, in the three years since the Fukushima-1 disaster, we have not been able to fully figure out what went wrong or how to avoid the recurrence of similar problems.
Tohoku Elecric Power provided full access to an international team of engineers who conducted a detailed inspection of the nuclear power plant in Onagawa, and agreed in advance to publish the report, regardless of whether it turned out to be positive or negative (in fact, the findings were encouraging). On the contrary, TEPCO did not provide sufficient level of access to its power plants to independent experts. The inspection at Fukushima-1 could be somewhat more complicated due to the ongoing elimination of the consequences of the accident, but nevertheless it is quite possible at one or another stage of the work for the past three years. Also, the inspection was to be carried out at Fukushima-2 and other TEPCO power plants.
Second, the government's position is that the regulatory authorities must determine whether it is safe to restart the nuclear power plant. This sounds good - after all, we want engineers (not politicians) to make technical decisions - in fact, it exposes a vital problem. Unfortunately, there are no such concepts as "maximum earthquake" or "maximum tsunami" - the planet functions in a completely different way. Each power plant must be built to withstand certain levels of earthquake and tsunami severity. We call this the design baseline. With an increase in the "design basis", the probability of a destructive earthquake (or tsunami) decreases (and the cost for the management company and, ultimately, for the consumer - increases), but no matter how high we set the "design basis", there will always be a non-zero the probability of an event that could destroy the nuclear power plant. The final decision on which risks are acceptable and which are not is inseparable from politics and should not be passed to the control authorities. The current system poses a moral threat.
It is necessary to exclude cases where the government and the management company can ignore nuclear accidents, simply saying “Sorry, hundred-gai” (“unexpectedly” or “unexpectedly”), as they did after the Fukushima accident.
Fourthly, due to the numerous debts that TEPCO faced due to the Fukushima accident and the need to completely change the safety culture in the company, the government completely despatched TEPCO’s nationalization, which was successfully done with the largest air carrier JAL several years ago .
Only by drawing a line under the past and clearly informing citizens about what changes will be made, the government can get hope for public support to restart nuclear power plants.
The original is published on the Nikkei Asian review website
Translated by Mikhail Botvinnik exclusively for EastRussia.ru