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TEPCO Prosecution: A Sign That Japan’s Nuclear Industry Is in Free Fall via The Independent

[…]The fact that this criminal prosecution is taking place at all is a vindication for the thousands of citizens and their dedicated lawyers who are challenging the nation’s largest power company and the establishment system. It is a devastating blow to the obsessively pro-nuclear Abe government, which is truly fearful of the effects the trial will have on nuclear policy and public opinion over the coming years.

For the eight other nuclear power companies in Japan, including their executives, the signal is clear – ignore nuclear safety and there is every prospect that when the next nuclear accident happens at your plant you will end up in court. For an industry that disregarded safety violations and falsified inspection results through its entire existence, the prosecution of TEPCO will be shocking.

But it would be naive to think that profound behavioral change will inevitably follow. In fact, in the five years after the accident, Japan’s nuclear industry has not just failed to learn the lessons of the accident, it is still actively ignoring them. In the three years since nuclear plant operators applied to restart their shutdown nuclear fleet, the evidence shows that when it comes to nuclear safety the bottom line is not safety, but money.

Leaving aside the inherent risks of another severe nuclear accident, the new safety agency in Japan, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is overwhelmed, incapable and inadequate.

Back in 2008, TEPCO produced an internal report that predicted a maximum credible tsunami of 15.7 meters, but continued to insist that it would not reach the nuclear plant at Fukushima, which sits at a height of 10 meters. The cooling pumps for the reactor cores and spent fuel pools were located at just four metres above sea level.

Historical evidence that a major tsunami would impact the eastern Pacific coast of Ibaraki, Fukushima and Miyagi was well known. Modelling suggested that the next major tsunami was overdue and would inundate the coastal plain about 2.5 to 3 km inland. In 2009, Japanese nuclear regulators questioned the vulnerability of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors to a large-scale tsunami and asked TEPCO to “consider” concrete steps against tsunami waves at the plant. TEPCO responded: “Do you think you can stop the reactors?”

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