Defenders of nuclear power have argued that, on the whole, Japan’s reactor operators have a record of operating safety. That assertion is at odds with the facts. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this morning documenting Tokyo Electric Power’s record of safety violations over the years:
A Journal analysis of Japanese regulatory documents shows that the Daiichi plant was already one of Japan’s most troubled nuclear facilities, even before it was severely damaged by this month’s quake and tsunami. In the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, the latest data available, Daiichi had the highest accident rate of any big Japanese nuclear plant, according to data collected by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization, a mostly government-funded group that monitors safety and conducts inspections. Daiichi’s workers were exposed to more radiation than their peers at most other plants, the data show.
Cutting corners and placing workers and the public in danger continued after the earthquake:
The Journal has reported that, in the early hours of the crisis, Tepco hesitated in its decision to use seawater to cool its reactors because it worried doing so could destroy a multi-billion-dollar plant at a time when it already was short of generating capacity. Eventually, officials were forced to resort to dumping seawater on the exposed rods using helicopters and fire trucks.