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Learn from Fukushima, N-chiefs told

Britain's nuclear managers "should be prepared for the worst" and learn lessons from the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima plant, according to the executive which runs the stricken site.

Naomi Hirose, president of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) told the Guardian: "What happened at Fukushima was, yes, a warning to the world. The resulting lesson was clear: Try to examine all the possibilities, no matter how small they are, and don't think any single counter-measure is foolproof. Think about all different kinds of small counter-measures, not just one big solution. There's not one single answer.

"We made a lot of excuses to ourselves ... Looking back, seals on the doors, one little thing, could have saved everything."

Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant, 124 miles north east of Tokyo, is now one of the world's worst nuclear disasters, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people because of the radiation escape. The Great East Japan earthquake on Marc h 11 2011 triggered a huge tsunami, complete with 17-metre waves, which, in turn, devastated the plant. Power supplies, including emergency back-up, cut out. The cooling systems malfunctioned and the reactors went into meltdown.

Brave workers are still trying to manage the situation which, although triggered by an extreme series of events, could have been tackled more effectively if some preventative steps had been taken, according to Mr Hirose.

The missed chances to make a difference included not fitting waterproof seals on all the doors in the reactor building, or placing an electricity-generating turbine on the roof, where the water might not have reached it. Wrong assumptions were made, he said.

Tepco's much-criticised clean-up of the now-decommissioned plant could to take up to 40 years. Harmful radiation levels has forced up to 150,000 people to abandon their homes and many do not know when or if they will be able to go back.

Mr Hirose said: "We can share all the information, all the data we obtained, that we learned from this accident, and then hope that people will use the data and information to prevent the same thing happening."

Hinkley Point in Somerset is poised to become the UK's first new nuclear reactor in a generation after a deal was struck between Britain and the French company EDF Energy.The UK government is to provide accident insurance.

Mr Hirose told the Guardian: "After I became president (in 2012), we formed a nuclear safety review committee. We focused mainly on what we could do, what we could learn. We had a lot of data by then. Three other reports, one from the Diet (Japan's parliament), one from government. We had a lot of information. Tepco's own report, too. We concluded that we should have avoided that catastrophic accident, and we could have. We could see what we should have done."

Leaks were found in some of the tanks storing contaminated water in July.

This was down to a "simple mistake" in managing the tanks, according to Mr Hirose. The monitoring system has since been changed and new welded tanks installed, instead of the old bolted together versions.


From Belfast Telegraph