Fukushima's Disaster Plan: A Stretcher and a Fax

Plant was woefully unprepared for natural disaster
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2011 7:27 AM CDT
Fukushima Dai-ichi Disaster Plan Involved One Stretcher, a Fax Machine
Gray smoke rises from Unit 3 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011.   (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. had a disaster plan in place at its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, but certainly not a very thorough one: It only involved one stretcher, and relied heavily on a satellite phone and fax machine for emergency communications. In a look at the plan, the Wall Street Journal exposes the many parts that fell short (there are no references to obtaining outside help, like the firefighters, military forces, and US equipment that plant operators ultimately relied on), making a clear case that Tepco was vastly underprepared for an emergency on the scale of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

In fact, the Fukushima Dai-ichi report on its accident-management protocols acknowledges that the possibility of a “severe accident” is so small as to be “practically unthinkable.” Nuclear power experts concur that few plant operators would be prepared for this level of natural disaster. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency declined to comment on whether Tepco’s plans meet IAEA guidelines, a Journal comparison shows that they generally do—with one big exception. IAEA guidelines call for “external events” like earthquakes to be covered, and the Fukushima Dai-ichi protocol doesn’t specifically cover such events. (More Fukushima Daiichi stories.)

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