Plant operator apologizes, again, as AP reports the company 'all but disregarded 3,000 years of geological history' in designing safe-guards at their Daiichi nuclear reactors...
By Brad Friedman on 3/27/2011, 11:55pm PT  

"The number is not credible," Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) spokesman Takashi Kurita told reporters on Monday in Japan, apologizing for the error. "We are very sorry."

Kurita was referring to their alarming report on Sunday night (local time) that radiation from iodine-134 in water of the basement of the turbine building at Fukushima Daiichi's Unit 2 reactor was 10 million times higher than the normal level, leading workers to another hasty evacuation of the plant. That number, Kurita explained, turned out to have been an incorrect reading.

But just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...Turns out the radiation levels in the flooded water at Unit 2 were actually "only" 100,000 times safe levels.

Mark McKinnon, the East Asia correspondent for Canada's The Globe and Mail may have said it best when he tweeted: "Congrats to TEPCO for finding a way to make radiation '100,000 times normal' sound almost like good news."

And with that, TEPCO confirmed the radioactive water has been detected in all four of the plant's six troubled reactors. It's "only" 10,000 times higher than normal at the those other reactor buildings...

The company had come under fire the day before when they admitted that they had known about high radiation levels in the puddled water at Unit 3, but failed to alert workers laying power cables in the basement trying to restore electricity to the unit. Three of them were burned by the radioactive water when it came over their boots while working in the wet darkness. Two of them were hospitalized. TEPCO apologized for that too.

On TEPCO's website even today, the company offers a section on "Corporate Ethics and Compliance". On that page, they explain how --- following a 2002 scandal which rocked the company and led to the resignation of their president, vice president and chairman after it was discovered the corporation had been been hiding safety violations for a decade by falsifying inspection reports --- "TEPCO implemented countermeasures to guard against a reoccurrence of incidents with regard to inspection and maintenance operations at our nuclear power stations."

"Through conducting thorough information disclosure," they explain, "TEPCO has established a system of independent inspections, and is highly transparent in the operation of its power generation plants."

Elsewhere on the site, TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu still promises:

As president, I will place high priority on making TEPCO a strong and competent company that can promise development and growth into the future and on improving public confidence in TEPCO, including the confidence of communities surrounding our power stations.

Not sure how much "confidence" the "communities surrounding [their] power station at the Fukushima Daiichi plant currently have in the company, but the snarky comments here largely write themselves, so we'll leave that to others.

AP offered an investigative report on Sunday by Justin Pritchard and Yuri Kageyama, in which they charge that TEPCO "dismissed important scientific evidence and all but disregarded 3,000 years of geological history," when designing their safeguards "against a killer tsunami".

AP reports the company simply ignored historic evidence of past tsunamis of the size which crippled the Fukushima plant following the 9.0 earthquake on March 11. They downplayed the risks, and the government allowed them to do so.

Just like in the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in the U.S., Japanese government and TEPCO officials have claimed, according to AP, that "no one could have anticipated" the events that have hobbled the Fukushima nuclear plant, leading to the world's worst nuclear catastrophe since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986.

No one could have anticipated it --- other than those who did, but were ignored, like those who are still being ignored in regard to similar safety concerns about nuclear plants in the U.S. even today.

As BBC journalist Greg Palast revealed earlier this month (our interview with him is here), plans are currently in the works for TEPCO to build two new nuclear reactors on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Meanwhile, neither company nor government officials have a definitive explanation for the spiking radiation levels at the Unit 2 reactor building, though TEPCO said on Sunday they believe it's coming from the reactor.

In a press conference on Monday (local time), according to Reuters, government officials were attributing the radiation in the water flooding in the basement to "a partial melting of fuel rods after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami."

"The radiation seems to have come from fuel rods that were partially melted down and came in contact with the water used to cool the reactor," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

Reuters said "His comments suggested there was no crack in the containment vessel in reactor No. 2, as some had feared, and he was not suggesting that there had been a fresh meltdown."

Edano explained: "The airborne radiation is mainly contained within the reactor building. We must make sure this water does not seep out into the soil or out to sea."

But at least some of that radiation has already seeped into the sea. On Saturday, radiation levels 1,250 times normal were discovered in sea water near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. By Sunday, that level had increased to 1,850 times normal.

"We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse. But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we've expected twists and turns," Edano said in his presser. "The contaminated water is one of them and we'll continue to repair the damage."

At another press conference, TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said, "Regrettably, we don't have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years," before this crisis will be fully over.

[Update 3/28/11, 6:41pm PT: At almost the same time we published this story last night, AP filed its own piece on TEPCO's recent and historic failures: "Bungling, cover-ups define TEPCO".]

Elsewhere, over 200,000 thousand turned out on Saturday in Germany to protest nuclear power, while Japan saw smaller protests on Sunday, as citizens there seem to have a renewed interest in opposing nukes, for some reason.

On Monday, Japan's National Police Agency announced the confirmed number of deaths from the March 11th earthquake and tsunami had risen to 10,872 while more than 16,200 remain missing.

As we noted in our Fukushima report on Thursday, with the toll of the dead and missing at 27,000, that number equates to some 68,000 Americans lost in a single day here in the U.S., if our relative populations are taken into account. For further perspective, the estimated cost of damage in Japan remains around $300 billion, while the estimated cost of 2005's Hurricane Katrina was approximately $81 billion.

The worst natural disaster in the history of the U.S., in terms of deaths, was the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in which 6,000 to 12,000 died --- again, by way of comparison to what Japan is now coping with, in a country with a population well less than half of ours.

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Please see our previous detailed update on Fukushima. Most of the specific details in that report remain operative at this hour, including information on new scientific analyses from around the world suggesting that Fukushima may be approaching Chernobyl levels of emissions, as based on independent analyses of several independent data streams by a number of scientists around the world.

Also, we continue to post breaking updates on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, around-the-clock as they occur, via our Twitter account: @TheBradBlog.