Misgivings over Safety Control in Nuclear Power Plants
The severity level of the Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, last March, 2011, has been raised from a scale of level five to level seven. Accordingly, the severity rose as officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) disclosed that the damages to the plant have progressed --- fuel rods have melted in three of the plant’s fuel reactors.
Fears over the effects of nuclear radiation continue to mount as critical information about the power plant’s faulty safety controls came into the open. Controversial issues related to the plant’s safety included TEPCO’s 2002 admission that the company had been submitting fake maintenance reports to the government’s regulators. In 2007, the electric company also suppressed information about six incidents of emergency stoppages in the Daiichi nuclear plant.
Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former Hitachi-Daiichi nuclear engineer revealed that the steel pressure vessel, which contains the fuel rods in Daiichi’s number four reactor, was flawed from the start.
Tanaka admitted that in 1975, his team discovered that braces, which should have been placed inside the vessel, were missing. Moreover, he and his team also found that the vessel’s steel walls warped when subjected to temperature levels of 600o Celsius as part of their strengthening processes.
Tanaka further admitted that he had orchestrated a cover-up by submitting fake reports in order to pass safety inspections. Doing so had saved Hitachi, the vessel manufacturer from bankruptcy; inasmuch as the Japanese government’s law for flawed vessels demanded that they should be scrapped altogether.
Ten years later and two months after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, engineer Tanaka decided to report the cover-up to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Unfortunately, Tanaka's revelations did not receive much attention to merit a full-scale investigation and inspection of the Daiichi power plant.
Four more nuclear facilities in Japan, namely, Chubu Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. (Osaka) have followed suit in admitting that they had also submitted fake safety reports. Other disclosures included information that Chubu Electric Power Co. is located near Japan's earthquake fault-lines. On top of all these, there were numerous suppressed reports of nuclear accidents in different facilities during the past years, all of which emanated from omissions in safety systems.
In view of all these revelations, the greater concerns to consider are the effects of nuclear radiation brought about by accidents once they happen. A level seven nuclear accident denotes that the nuclear power plant has sustained severe damages and there is a total breakdown in the plant’s safety control mechanisms.