IAEA Says Japan Underestimated Tsunami Risk at Nuclear Sites

The International Atomic Energy Agency just completed a fact finding mission into the Japanese nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant–and one fact they find  is that the Tsunami hazard was under-estimated.  From the IAEA:

  • Japan’s response to the nuclear accident has been exemplary, particularly illustrated by the dedicated, determined and expert staff working under exceptional circumstances;
  • Japan’s long-term response, including the evacuation of the area around stricken reactors, has been impressive and well organized. A suitable and timely follow-up programme on public and worker exposures and health monitoring would be beneficial;
  • The tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated. Nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies;
  • Nuclear regulatory systems should address extreme events adequately, including their periodic review, and should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved; and
  • The Japanese accident demonstrates the value of hardened on-site Emergency Response Centres with adequate provisions for handling all necessary emergency roles, including communications.

In the meantime, the IFRC posts this harrowing account of survivors of the Tsunami.

In Mrs Nakajo’s tears there is joy, but also a mix of sadness and relief, remembering March 11 and how lucky her family were to escape death.

In the hours after the earthquake, three tsunami waves threatened Asahi on the Boso Peninsula.

Mrs Nakajo was at home with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Her mother-in-law hadn’t been well and was in bed, the sister-in-law alongside her, on the bed.

“The first wave came up to our knees,” she said. “After a while, it started to recede.

“Later, we could see the second wave out at sea. It went in a different direction and missed us.”

Thinking they may have escaped the danger, the three women got the shock of their lives when about an hour later a wall of water smashed down their front door and started filling up the house.

“We had no idea it was coming,” she said. “There was no noise at all. It was silent.

“The water was rising so quickly that everything started floating, even the bed with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law in it.”

A side of the house collapsed and floated away. The three women clung to the three-sided shell as the wave ripped it from its foundations and carried it inland.

“It was terrifying,” she said, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “We could see everything that was happening outside around us.”

Mrs Nakajo and the women saw a large pile of debris heading for their house, the side where there was no wall. Just metres from smashing into the debris, a shipping container floated by and knocked a corner of the house, turning it sideways. The debris missed the house by metres.

“We were very lucky,” she said.

Mrs Nakajo tried her mobile. It worked, and she rang emergency services, which rescued the three women.

She was reunited with her husband and son at an evacuation centre. Mr Nakajo had been swept into the water. He grabbed on to the front door of a fish shop as it floated by. It saved his life.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I always thought these type of disasters happened to somebody else, that they’d never happen to me. When I’m in a situation like this I really appreciate Red Cross and everything everyone has done. I escaped only with the clothes I was wearing. We have lost everything.”