Skip to comments.Japan: In Nuclear Crisis, Crippling Mistrust
Posted on 06/13/2011 4:42:45 AM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
In Nuclear Crisis, Crippling Mistrust
By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER
Published: June 12, 2011
TOKYO On the evening of March 12, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants oldest reactor had suffered a hydrogen explosion and risked a complete meltdown. Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked aides to weigh the risks of injecting seawater into the reactor to cool it down.
At the dramas heart was an outsider prime minister who saw the need for quick action but whose well-founded mistrust of a system of alliances between powerful plant operators, compliant bureaucrats and sympathetic politicians deprived him of resources he could have used to make better-informed decisions.
The early disarray alarmed the United States government enough that it increasingly urged the Japanese to take more decisive action, and to be more forthcoming in sharing information. Making matters worse was Mr. Kans initial reluctance to accept the help of the United States, which offered pump trucks, unmanned drones and the advice of American nuclear crisis experts.
Within 48 hours of the earthquake, officials from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived in Tokyo, but they were unable to get information or even arrange meetings with Japanese counterparts. Meanwhile, Washington became convinced that Tokyo was understating the damage at the plant, based on readings that the Americans were getting around the plant from aircraft and satellites normally used to monitor North Korean nuclear tests, said one American official, who asked not to be named.
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
2) U.S. saw what was unfolding from their surveillance assets in E. Asia, and immediately grasped the gravity of the situation.
I suspected that the two things above were happening at the time and the article says that it was indeed the case.
Just exactly what IS a meltdown, anyway ... ?
Interestingly, the article suggests that the people at the plant actually did the right thing, while the prime minister seems to have dithered because of his own lack of trust, and it was the PM who wouldn’t let the U.S. get involved, NOT the company.
A lot of people speculated that the company was the problem, but now it seems it was the government.
Even some supporters say that Mr. Kan could have moved faster and more decisively if he had used Japans existing crisis management system.Kan distrusted Tepco, so he refused to use the existing system. Instead, the article says he put together a team of close advisors who had no nuclear training, and then vacilated on whether to intervene personally or let the company do things.
Meanwhile, the company felt hand-tied because of the interference of Kan, but then Kan wouldn't give them the go-ahead to do anything.
Actually, this sounds a lot like the interference the Obama Administration injected into the BP oil spill, which seems now to have prolonged the disaster and made it worse.
Maybe what we are learning once again is that government is rarely the solution, even when there is an actual crisis. And that even the corrupt "businesses" might better managed disasters out of their own self-preservation interest, than to have the government step in and interfere.
But now it seems it was the Prime Minister who caused that order -- and also the plant ignored them:
On March 12, about 28 hours after the tsunami struck, Tepco executives had ordered workers to start injecting seawater into Reactor No. 1. But 21 minutes later, they ordered the plants manager, Masao Yoshida, to suspend the operation. They were relying on an account by the Tepco liaison to the prime minister, who reported back that he seemed to be against it.
According to the article, he was only out of the loop because of his own choice; he decided he didn't trust the loop, and that hurt the effort. There is no indication the "powerful alliance" tried to keep him out of the loop.
Here’s another even more disturbing thing, about Obama and how he responded. I won’t quote because I don’t want to over-quote the article.
But on page 4, the article suggests that the real reason Obama ordered U.S. personnel evacuated to 50 miles was not because they thought it was a real threat, but to “send a message” to Japan’s government to force them to share more information.
Obama also apparently threatened to pull military personnel from the country to send a message.
Then, it was the Prime Minister who ordered the rediculous “water drop” operation, and even though it clearly did nothing (and wasn’t expected to do anything), the PM reported it as a success to Obama, and Obama responded with a gesture which signalled he was happy.
So we had two governments acting not based on facts and reason, but playing politics.
Company is indeed the problem, the management and organization. It is the organization culture and management who made things worse or react timely, while some guy in the field has good grasp of what is to be done. There are many crap companies with good field talents. Still it fails and go down because it refuses to take feedback from the field and makes the wrong decisions.
Apparently Mr. Yoshida has a backbone but I suspect that there are few who can challenge management in such a way. Nuclear industry is a small community. If you get blackballed by TEPCO, you should get a job outside the industry.
Mr. Kans critics and supporters alike say his suspicions of Tepco were well-founded. In the early days after the March 11 disaster, Tepco shared only limited information with the prime ministers office, trying instead to play down the risks at the plant, they said.
Aside from the seawater thing, TEPCO was allowed to run things as it wanted for a few days, until reactor 3, 2, and 4 blew up. It never asked for a big gun to bring into the situation. Kan has his leadership problem. He is not fit for crisis management. However, it does not get TEPCO off the hook. TEPCO covered up the situation and diddled around, not making drastic decisions required. They actually resented any outside help, too. It is not as if TEPCO wanted it badly but Kan slapped it down.
With his ineptitude for a few days, Kan inadvertently gave TEPCO a free hand, but it failed miserably. Furthermore, lack of using crisis team is a government matter. Kan left it out of the situation, as you wished. You have to understand that the Kan's failure to grasp the situation gave TEPCO lots of discretion, but apparently it was deplorably inept to handle the situation.
TEPCO and nuclear establishment can still share information with others and go about solving the problem. Why did bureaucracy and nuclear establishment refused to share information with U.S.? For fear of Kan. If he is such an outsider, it won’t be difficult to share critical information with Americans, who have enough resources to make a difference. However, they did not.
50 mile zone was needed, first and foremost, for U.S. citizens. If no information is available on how bad the situation is, it is prudent to assume the worst and evacuate even military personnel as far as possible. This is not merely a cynical political ploy. It is what is needed to be done at the moment, Obama or no Obama. U.S. military does not want to be sucked into another 'Agent Orange' mess.
I don't like Obama. He is a kind of people I have grown to dislike. However, pinning motive solely on Obama's political calculus is off the mark.
Reports that Obama demanded conditions on early US help... NYTimes decides that’s not germane.
Exactly. People should know by now that when there's a problem at a nuclear plant they should bug out immediately and ask questions later. Of course, they had all the damage across the country from the quake and the tsunami so bugging out might have been difficult the first few days. When it became apparent all officials were playing at a three ring circus, it should have been glaringly obvious to all to get the heck outta Dodge. Seriously, one more earth rumble or spark or wave might have been the one to make it go BOOM! I'm still not confident it won't go BOOM! at any moment.