Nuclear Energy: How Fukushima Changed Everything

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Nuclear Energy:
How Fukushima Changed Everything.

After the Chernobyl disaster of April 26th, 1986, it was often said that the nuclear industry no longer had the resilience to survive another major nuclear accident. The industry hoped that the sentiment behind the Chernobyl accident could be eased on the basis that it was the consequence of a flaw in design that was unique to the Soviet Union’s reactors and that they had been operated in such a way that would not have been acceptable in the West. Then, Fukushima changed everything. That, at least, was the popular view adopted in the aftermath of March 11, 2011, by the press, media and across the Internet blogging community. A nuclear accident in such a densely populated and well-developed country would transform the way nuclear energy is perceived, as well as, determine the way it would be used, or not used, in the years to come. This analysis attempts to overview its causes, evaluate its impact, and understand its consequences on future nuclear development.

Causes
On October 30th, 2011, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) was enacted, creating an independent commission whose sole purpose was to investigate the Fukushima accident with the authority to request documentation and evidence required from whomever they saw fit. This independent commission was the first in the history of Japan’s constitutional government. Their main mandate was to investigate the direct and indirect causes of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima nuclear power plant accident that occurred on March 11, 2011 in conjunction with the Great East Japan Earthquake. This event triggered an extremely severe nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). It was declared Level 7 (“Severe Accident”) by the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). At the moment the earthquake struck, nuclear reactor units 1 to 3 were functioning under normal operating parameters and units 4 to 6 were undergoing periodic inspection. Emergency shutdown occurred right after seismic activity was identified. The seismic tremors damaged the electricity transmission facilities between the TEPCO Shinfukushima Transformer Substations

Nuclear Energy: How Fukushima Changed Everything.

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and the Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Power Plant. This resulted in a total loss of off-site electricity. The back-up transmission line that was hooked up to nearby Tohoku Electric Power Company failed to feed reactor 1 due to mismatched sockets. The first of 3 tsunami waves was more than twice the height of the seawall which TEPCO had failed to replace after recommendations had been made by a group of government scientists back in 2009. TEPCO later stated that this recommendation was in the process of review at the time the tsunami hit. The seawater began flooding the building floor breaking walls and scattering debris. As the water rose, emergency diesel generators broke down, along with the seawater cooling pumps, electric wiring system and DC power supply for units 1, 2, 3 and 4. This resulted in a complete loss of power. Unit 5 lost all AC power and unit 6 stayed online due to a working air cooled emergency diesel generator. The loss of electricity resulted in the shutdown of monitoring equipment, lighting and communication devices. Decisions had to be made on the spot without the proper tools or manuals, making it difficult to cool down the reactors in an efficient way. The cooling reactors which were dependent on electricity for high-pressure water injection, depressurizing the reactors low pressure water injection cooling, depressurizing the reactor containers, and removal of decay, failed. Lack of access to these key locations due to debris pile up led to the inability of the personnel to react appropriately. In June, 2011, four months after the accident, the country’s Nuclear Emergency Response...
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