Chester Dawson of the Wall Street Journal posted a piece today that suggests that design problems at Fukushima Daiichi made the plant unsafe, even before the earthquake and tsunami:
Nine months before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the nuclear disaster, a loss of power triggered a two-meter drop in water levels inside the plant’s No. 2 reactor. Unlike the March meltdown, the little-reported June 17, 2010 glitch didn’t release radiation. And it wasn’t caused by a giant wave, but rather a misplaced elbow.
In a final report issued about the incident on July 6, 2010, Tepco noted the cramped work space in the plant’s control room as a contributing factor. For some nuclear power plant experts, that invokes a powerful sense of déjà vu.
“These plants are all of roughly the same vintage and suffer from a common lack of ‘human factors’ considerations in the design of their control systems. That was a major contributing cause to the Three Mile Island accident,” said Najmedin Meshkati,a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who authored a 1991 study of human factors in large-scale industrial accidents.