Tsunami Defence at Fukushima Diiachi – a rebuttal of the Barry Brook position

The source of the information in this post is the book “Fukushima – Japan’s Tsunami and the inside story of the nuclear meltdowns”, by Mark Willacy, 9781742612959, MacMillan by Pan MacMillan Australia Pty Ltd. Copyright Mark Willacy 2013.

The TV interview in which Prof Brook gives his opinion, specifically in relation to tsunami protection (in this post) is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFs_-8DtZvo . Prof has written and spoken much about these matters and the reader can easily find of the Brook view on the internet if you are interested.

To quote Brook, in part, from the youtube link above:

Prof. Brook: “I think they (events) show the vulnerability of any human infrastructure to the forces of nature. Especially when they are unleashed with such fury as they were with that massive earthquake, the largest one to hit Japan in recorded times, and a 10 metre tsunami. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect any infrastructure along a coastline like that to survive an event like that. But what it does highlight is that decisions were made back in the ‘60s, when that nuclear power plant was planned and built, they did not anticipate the scale of the natural disaster that occurred here.”

Prof. Brook: “They predicted up to a 6.5 metres tsunami and protected against that. But of course, as events turned out, the tsunami was even bigger than that. The tsunami washed over the plant. It seems like it damaged the diesel generators that were supplying backup power . There was a chain of diesel generators in fact, each one a redundant generator for the one before it. All of those were destroyed by the tsunami. The fuel tanks that would supply the diesel for many days for them seemed to be washed away. And the emergency cooling water as well was also damaged such that they ended up having to use sea water to cool it. The design of the 40 year old plant actually survived the earthquake. They were designed to survive an earthquake 7 times that what they were hit by and yet they survived and it was the tsunami that got them.”

Prof Brooke: “I think it’s clear that the risk that the tsunami faced and the fact that all of the redundant generators were wiped out in one blow suggests that there was not enough prudent forethought for that risk. And in any sort of major accident in any industry there’s a period of introspection afterwards. Looking at what went wrong. Just like in anything in our lives. And trying to take the salient lessons and use that in future is a …I see the announcements of governments around the world to re-look at the safety of their current nuclear power plants. That’s an eminently sensible thing to do because you can look at all of the contingencies that they have allowed for and say well, what if the situation in Japan had happened to us, are we prepared? That’s learning from the lessons of history.” Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFs_-8DtZvo ABC TV One Plus One: Barry Brook on nuclear power’s future after Fukushima, posted Published on 18 Mar 2011.

end quotes from Prof Brook at the link above.

It is one think to make a mistake of omission. It is one thing to determine that tsunami could safely be set at 6.5 metres maximum wave height if in fact no evidence for the historic presence of tsunamis of greater height existed. What does the record show? Does evidence that tsunami wave height along the Fukushima coastline greater – much greater – than 6.5 metres exist? Was the evidence presented to Japanese government, radiological and energy generators such as TEPCO? If so, when did this occur and how did the Japanese authorities respond?
Should alleged and self proclaimed tsunami experts such as Barry Brook have also have had the foresight and responsibility to know about this potential evidence prior to the issuing of his edicts?

Let us see. Japanese written history goes back a long long time. Ample opportunity for nuclear authorities in Japan and elsewhere to learn from history, as Brook claims they did prior to designing the Fukushima Diiachi nuclear complex and its tsunami defences.

As mentioned above, the following is taken from “Fukushima – Japan’s Tsunami and the inside story of the nuclear meltdowns”, by Mark Willacy, 9781742612959, MacMillan by Pan MacMillan Australia Pty Ltd. Copyright Mark Willacy 2013. In the following extracts for study purposes, all quotes are from this book. I give the page numbers at the end of each quote.

“…Dr. Gavin Hayes, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey in Denver, Colorado …(stated) “We equate it (the events of March 2011) most closely with the Jogan Earthquake of 869″. Named for that period of Japanese history, the Jogan Earthquake sent a tsunami crashing into the Sanriku coast. It’s impact was described in Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku (The True History of Three Regions of Japan), an official history of Japan ordered by the Emperor Uda in 879 CE and completed 22 years later. It recorded how more than 1,000 people perished…” Willacy, pp 25, 26.

“Dr.Yukinobu Okamura, the director of Japan’s Active Fault and Earthquake Researxh Centre ….. Dr. Okamura’s researchers had already discovered four years earlier (to 2011) through sediment analysis that the Jogan tsunami had reached three to four kilometres inland in modern day Sendai and nearly two kilometres inland at northern Fukushima. That finding would come back to haunt him, the Japanese Government and TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Plant”. Willacy, pp26. emphasis added.

“In 2008, TEPCO engineers made a startling discovery. Using simulations, they calculated that a tsunami as high as 15.7 metres could slam into the Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Plant. But TEPCO’s top brass, including the deputy head of the nuclear division, Sakae Muto, shelved the findings….TEPCO would keep the 15.7 metre tsunami simulation a secret from nuclear regulators until 7 March 2011 – four days before waves as high as 15 metres slammed into Fukushima Diiachi….” Willacy, pp 96.

“On 24 June 2009, during a meeting of the NISA panel set up (in 2008) to review nuclear reactor plant safeguards, Yukinobu Okamura (see earlier quote above) warned everyone that there was a risk of a huge tsunami barrelling into the Fukushima coast, right where the Fukushima Diiachi plant sat. He based his warning on beach sand and sea-floor deposits washed inland near the site 1,140 years earlier, in the minutes after the Jogan earthquake. ….”Dr. Okamura explained…”We had researched much before the March 11 earthquake and so we set out the scale of the 869 quake.”…”We proved that a tsunami of (such a large) scale had occurred.”….”We found deposits from tsunamis that were older than the Jogan tsunami, Dr. Okamura said. “We measured the time and then estimated the frequency. Then we discovered that the intervals (between the tsunamis) are 500 to 800 years. That means if no quake had hit since the Jogan (tremor), then the probability of (another large earthquake) was high. dThe is, I felt it was high time…..Yukinobu Okamura took his research to the NISA panel and presented it to his colleagues, warning them that big tsunamis had hit the Fukushima coast before, and that the 1938 earthquake that TEPCO was using as a benchmark for safety at the nuclear plant was inadequate because it was way too small….Sitting across the table from Dr. Okamura in his office in the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Centre, north east of Tokyo in 2012, I asked him exactly what he told his colleagues on the expert panel in June 2009. This sparked a testy exchange with his two (government) minders – Shimomura and Tanaka. “That is not related to his business,” snapped Tanaka” Willacy, pp 99, 100, 101.

Willacy explains that the minutes from the meetings were freely available from NISA, and that he (Willacy) had already obtained them and read them) (it is important in current rebuttal of the Brook view to quote the relevant minutes fairly comprehensively, so that we can determine how nuclear authorities respond to reality – was it in a manner which indicates that wanted to act on lessons learned for the benefit of all, or rather, did they want to contest it or bury it by bullying and suppressing the expert evidence? Copyright and very original work by Mark Willacy deserves a referral to his work rather than comprehensive copying of his work here though. Get the book.

The record of the minutes in Willacy’s book clearly shows that the TEPCO representative present, Mr. Nishimura contented that the Jogan earthquake did not cause much damage. Dr. Okamura disagreed citing the historical record. However it is plain that TEPCO was concerned to keep the discussion focussed only earthquake damage as opposed to tsunami damage. Pointedly, the following exchange took place:

“Mr. Nishimura from TEPCO then said he thought that maybe the company should look into the Jogan Earthquake. Dr. Okamura went on to explain that his team’s research had already found deposits left by the Jogan tsunami deep inland, and that, contrary to TEPCO’s view, massive waves did indeed slam into the coast as far south as Fukushima. “That information is available to us. But you are not mentioning it all. That is what I can’t understand, said Okamura to the TEPCO official….A week later, the expert panel’s interim report was issued. It was noted that Dr. Okamura had requested that the Jogan Earthquake of 869 be studied. But then it rebuffed everything the geologist had warned about – that these giant quakes strike off the Pacific coast every 500 to 800 years, that they spawn massive tsunamis that can thunder kilometres inland, and that there is proof written in the earth itself to back all this up. Instead, the interim report stated that NISA did not think the Jogan tremor was as violent or devastating as the demonstrably smaller 1938 earthquake used as TEPCO’s safety benchmark for the nuclear plant at Fukushima…Yukinobu Okamura’s expert but dissenting opinion was dismissed. But his warnings that TEPCO’s defences at Fukushima Diiachi were woefully inadequate would prove prophetic, …..” Willacy pp 99, 100, 101.

i find that Barry Brook’s portrayal of nuclear industry doing all it could to reasonably anticipate and design appropriately for the tsunami hazard at Fukushima Diiachi is deeply and seriously in error. I cannot say whether these serious errors in accurate disclosure are deliberate or not. As a person who claims expert knowledge in all things he talks about, I find him totally unacceptable as a rigorous source of impartial and accurate information. Suffice to say since 2009 at the latest Japanese nuclear experts had sufficient warning to adequately prepare for the events of March 2011. Not only did these experts fail to so prepare, they actively suppressed the truth until a mere 7 days before the tsunami struck in March 2011. The nuclear industry, as per usual, failed to respond to reality in a rational manner. It was, as usual, more interested in PR and profits. These are my opinions based upon the fantasies of Prof Brook and the facts presented by Japanese experts as reported by Mark Willacy.