April 3, 2011

A Quick Note: A Message from My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, for TEPCO and the Japanese Government

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

A message from my dad for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government, from Interview 16:

“We’ve tried to remain calm and rational and not get too excited. So, just because we haven’t raised our voice and started yelling and screaming doesn’t indicate at all that we don’t have concerns. I think from early on, if you go back and listen to some of the early interviews, the lack of transparency from TEPCO– I’ve been saying all along I think before, definitely before, the mainstream press, and I remember in one of the interviews early on I was really happy when finally Anderson Cooper was starting to take them to task for their lack of transparency– we’ve been saying since day one that TEPCO has not been forthcoming. And, in the last interview, and I realize it’s probably been three days, we talked about: hey [TEPCO], two-and-a-half weeks into this, now three weeks into this, how come you can’t get two or three reactor operators or engineers together from some of your other plants [and] interpret for the public what’s going on and produce a comprehensive briefing every day? And their [TEPCO’s] press releases are still not very informative.

The other thing that we’ve commented on is the lack of a website that an average person can go to and have the radiation and contamination readings in plain English so that they can understand where it’s above the limit and where it’s below the limit and where they should and should not be concerned. And the IAEA had at least put some information out there, and we had referenced people to it a few days ago, but still as far as I know, today– now there may be a site in Japanese that I can’t find or read– but to my knowledge there’s still not a website that people can go to that shows them: here’s the radiation and contamination readings for the past twenty-four to forty-eight hours– and here’s where we are above the limit, here’s where we are below the limit. It just doesn’t seem to exist. The information is scattered. Clearly, I think the Japanese government could be doing a better job there. I’m surprised that they’re not.

And the other thing  that we pointed out– we had a very long discussion about venting and the fact that the NRC in the US had required plants with the Mark I containment to go back in and put in hardened vent systems and that TEPCO obviously didn’t do that– now they’re not in the United States so they’re not compelled to follow orders from the NRC, but certainly they were aware that this design change had been required in the US, and I think TEPCO as a nuclear operator has a responsibility to do the right thing whether they are required by the government or not. But also– where was the Japanese government in requiring this for the plants in Japan? So, as far as I’m concerned they’re both at fault. And that has to be looked at. The Japanese government has to look at their regulatory agency and say: okay, what else should have been done to our nuclear power plants in Japan that we haven’t required?…

…given the lack of transparency, given the lack of implementation of the design changes, given some of the other shortcomings that we’ve heard of in terms of radiation suits and radiation badges, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question if TEPCO should be allowed to continue to operate nuclear power plants. Now, I’m not yelling, I’m not screaming, but I don’t think I can be any clearer in saying that I don’t trust TEPCO, and I’m not sure anybody else should either based on what’s happened during this accident. ”

-Cdr. Mark L. Mervine, Nuclear Engineer (USNR, Ret.)