japanese nuclear disaster NOT directly because of quake

Contrary to common belief, the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was not adirect result of the 9.0 earthquake which hit Northeastern Japan on 11 March. In fact, all 16 reactors in the earthquake zone, including the six at the Fukushima plant, shut down within two minutes of the quake, as they were designed to do. But Fukushima is a relatively old nuclear facility – also known as second generation – which requires continuous power supply to provide cooling (the newer third generation reactors are designed with a self-cooling system which doesn’t require uninterrupted power).

When the quake devastated the area around Fukushima, and the primary power supply was cut off, the diesel generators took over as planned, and the cooling continued. But then came the tsunami. Around the Fukushima plant was a protection wall designed to withstand a 5.2 metre tsunami, as the area is prone to tsunamis. However, this particular one was the mother of all tsunamis. When a 14 metre high wall of water, mud and debris hit the nuclear facility, the diesel generators were wiped out as well. But the story doesn’t end there, because Fukushima had a second line of defence – batteries which could keep the cooling running for another nine hours, supposedly enough to re-establish the power lines to the facility. However, the devastation around the area was so immense that the nine hours proved hopelessly inadequate. The rest is history, as they say.

Niels Jensen
Absolute Return Partners

 

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