This article from back in March describes some of the past safety problems at Japan’s nuclear facilities. It briefly mentions issues the IAEA had as far back as the 1990’s with Japan’s failing nuclear safety.
The arrangements for accidents, emergency planning and safety training by Japanese power companies were condemned as inadequate by IAEA inspectors after they visited four reactors in the 1990s. Altogether they found 90 deficiencies in safety procedures.
The IAEA’s findings should have been a wake up call, the more concerning part is that they were completely unable to do anything about it. It did cause a major scandal in Japan as cover ups by the power companies hit the media. A considerable portion of the IAEA findings involved cracks in equipment, a serious danger. As of 2002 the IAEA did not know if anything had been done to solve the problems. They had not been invited back by Japan to visit the reactors for new inspections. This problem with the IAEA and their lack of ability to enforce anything has been criticized by many since the Fukushima disasters.
Details that came out in 2002 showed widespread aging damage in critical parts like core shrouds, critical water circulation pipes, steam driers and other critical systems for reactor safety. One of specific concern was TEPCO’s clandestine patch job repairs to cracked core shrouds to fool inspectors. TEPCO also did a clandestine repair on the core spray system in unit 1 at Fukushima Daiichi. This is a critical portion of the emergency system intended to stop meltdowns.
Combine the history of ignoring natural disaster risks in siting and building the reactors, with some horrible safety problems and dishonesty in the 1990’s that was still evident in 2002. Now in 2011 we are still getting hints that nothing had changed as workers had no emergency venting manual and had to scramble to get a copy of reactor blueprints from a subcontractor and create a plan on the fly. Workers then had to scavenge equipment to implement their on the fly venting plan.
In this 2002 report it appears that the paramount goal of Japan’s nuclear agencies was to continue the appearance of perfection to the rest of the world.
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