Fukushima nuclear disaster is warning to the world, says power company boss

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
By Paul Martin

Exclusive: UK government must learn from Japan’s catastrophe as it plans a new generation of plant, nuclear chief claims

Simon Tisdall
The Guardian
Tuesday 19 November 2013

The catastrophic triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011 was “a warning to the world” about the hazards of nuclear power and contained lessons for the British government as it plans a new generation of nuclear power stations, the man with overall responsibility for the operation in Japan has told the Guardian.

Speaking at his Tokyo corporate headquarters , Naomi Hirose, president of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the stricken Fukushima plant, said Britain’s nuclear managers “should be prepared for the worst” in order to avoid repeating Japan’s traumatic experience. “We tried to persuade people that nuclear power is 100% safe. That was easy for both sides. Our side explains how safe nuclear power is. The other side is the people who listen and for them it is easy to hear OK, it’s safe, sure, why not?

“But we have to explain, no matter how small a possibility, what if this [safety] barrier is broken? We have to prepare a plan if something happens … It is easy to say this is almost perfect so we don’t have to worry about it. But we have to keep thinking: what if …”

British ministers recently agreed a commercial deal with the French state-owned energy company EDF Energy to build the UK’s first new nuclear reactor in a generation at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The agreement included the UK government providing accident insurance.

Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi facility on the coast about 124 miles (200km) north-east of Tokyo, comprising six nuclear reactors, was hit by a giant tsunami with waves peaking at 17 metres high caused by the Great East Japan earthquake on 11 March 2011. In what quickly became one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, operators lost control of the plant when the power supply, including emergency back-up, failed amid massive flooding. As cooling systems malfunctioned, reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered meltdowns.

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