Tepco Tore Down the Natural Seawall Which Would Have Protected Fukushima from the Tsunami

Tsunami Wouldn’t Have Taken Out the Reactors If Tepco Had Left the Natural Seawall In Place

The Wall Street Journal noted in 2011:


When Tokyo Electric Power Co. broke ground on the now defunct Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power station 44 years ago, the utility made a fateful construction decision that raised the plant’s vulnerability to the tsunami that ultimately crippled its reactors.

In 1967, Tepco chopped 25 meters off the 35-meter natural seawall where the reactors were to be located, according to documents filed at the time with Japanese authorities. That little-noticed action was taken to make it easier to ferry equipment to the site and pump seawater to the reactors. It was also seen as an efficient way to build the complex atop the solid base of bedrock needed to better protect the plant from earthquakes.

But the razing of the cliff also placed the reactors five meters below the level of 14- to 15-meter tsunami hitting the plant March 11, triggering a major nuclear disaster resulting in the meltdown of three reactor cores.


At the time, a 35-meter seaside cliff running the length of the property was a prominent feature of the site.

But Tepco outlined its intention to clear away about two-thirds of the bluff in its official request for permission from the government to build its first nuclear plant, according to a copy of the application reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“While the tsunami countermeasures at Fukushima Daiichi were considered sufficient when the plant was constructed, the fact that those defenses were overwhelmed is something that we take very seriously,” said Kouichi Shiraga, a public-affairs official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.


The destruction of that natural tsunami barrier at the Fukushima Daiichi site contrasts starkly with later decisions in the 1970s to build the nearby Fukushima Daini and Onagawa nuclear-power plants at higher elevations. Despite being rocked by the massive March earthquake, both of those plants’ reactors achieved “cold shutdowns” shortly after the tsunami struck and thereby avoided the damage wreaked upon the crippled Daiichi plant.

Both of those plants, located along the same coastline as Daiichi, survived primarily because they were built at higher elevations, on top of floodwalls that came with the landscape. As a result, the tsunami didn’t result in an extended loss of power at those plants, allowing their operators to quickly cool active reactors and avoid meltdowns.

Tepco’s 1966 application for permission to start construction at Daiichi … did review tsunami history in a three-page list of seismic activity dating from 1273. In that chart, Tepco does reference a tsunami of unspecified height that struck the immediate area of Daiichi in 1677. It destroyed 1,000 homes and killed 300 people.

The application cites typhoons as the bigger threat, noting an 8-meter-tall wave generated in 1960. “Most large waves in this coastal area are the product of strong winds and low pressure weather patterns, such as Typhoon No. 28 in February of 1960, which produced peak waves measured at 7.94 meters,” it stated.

A former senior Tepco executive involved in the decision-making says there were two main reasons for removing the cliff. First, a lower escarpment made it easier to deliver heavy equipment used in the plant, such as the reactor vessels, turbines and diesel generators, all of which were transported to the site by sea. Second, the design of the plant required seawater to keep the reactor cool, which was facilitated by a shorter distance to the ocean.

“It would have been a very difficult and major engineering task to lift all that equipment up over the cliff,” says Masatoshi Toyota, 88 years old, the former top Tepco executive who helped oversee the building of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. “For similar reasons, we figured it would have been a major endeavor to pump up seawater from a plateau 35 meters above sea level,” he said in a telephone interview.


“Of course there is no record of big tsunami damage there because there was a high cliff at the very same spot” to prevent it, said Mr. Oike, the seismologist on the investigation committee.

And Daiichi’s lower elevation contrasted with plants that were built in the following years along the same coast.


The Onagawa site, 60 miles north of Daiichi, was selected in large part because of its height beyond the reach of any recorded tsunami, according to a former executive at a Japanese manufacturer involved in the work.

Many Other Negligent Or Criminal Errors

Tepco has made many other negligent or criminal errors:

  • Tepco just admitted that it’s known for 2 years that massive amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the groundwater and Pacific Ocean
  • Tepco’s recent attempts to solidify the ground under the reactors using chemicals has backfired horribly. And NBC News notes: “[Tepco] is considering freezing the ground around the plant. Essentially building a mile-long ice wall underground, something that’s never been tried before to keep the water out. One scientist I spoke to dismissed this idea as grasping at straws, just more evidence that the power company failed to anticipate this problem … and now cannot solve it.”

Letting Tepco remove the fuel rods is like letting a convicted murderer perform delicate brain surgery on a VIP.

Top scientists and government officials say that Tepco should be removed from all efforts to stabilize Fukushima. An international team of the smartest engineers and scientists should handle this difficult “surgery”.

Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear (who sent us the Wall Street Journal article) sums it up pretty well:

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  • http://prosperouswaydown.com/ MaryLogan

    Did they ever ask themselves why that cliff was there in the first place . . . ?

    • Randa

      I was listening to an Australian dude this morning who said that they removed the cliff for easier transport of equipment into the plant. He also stated that where Fukushima is located, was once a very beautiful pristine part of Japan, strangely enough.

  • Randa

    Apparently Tepco just postponed the removal of the fuel rods:


    Is it possible that during the recent typhoon/EQ blew some of the fuel rods blew out of reactor 4 and into the ocean? (Maybe this is what they’ve been hiding and the reason for the sudden urgency to remove whatever is in there.)

    It seems to me that Obama and all his warmongering mates could chill out for a week and put together a team of experts like Paul Gunter to go into Fukushima and assess what actually needs to be done, if anything can be done at this time.

    Tepco feels more like the perpetrator of a massive psyop, than a “power” company to me.


    • ridethewave13

      Sounds about right. I bet we can find it. Hows a late night skinny dip sound to you?

    • John L

      I’m sorry what war has Obama started again?

      • joeyman9

        The drone wars, Lybia, Syrian Rebel Back, and the continuation of military presence and support by US Troops or Mercs in Iraq and Afganistan

    • J-M

      They stop fuel rod removal and radiation level are spiking again….. That tells me they had a mishap during rod removal and they have a #4 reactor meltdown on their hands

  • gozounlimited

    San Luis Obispo County is considering a future without Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. The area should diversify their economy to deal with possible closure since the plant has reached it’s maximum life expectancy of forty years old, after going on line in 1973. Diablo was designed in the 1960s, and is in fact an aging nuclear plant. It is also a radioactive waste storage dump surrounded by 13 earthquake faults, some of them classified as “major” and “active” by the United States Geological Survey…. http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/07/31/2608963/diablos-safety-is-key-concern.html

    • Sonokar

      Diablo did not go on line in 1973. I worked at Diablo Canyon (and wrote the NRC Rapid Alert Notification System) in the late 80’s as Unit 1 was going online and Unit 2 was being loaded with fuel rods (yes, I am sterile).

      Those two reactors were designed to last only 20 years then units 3 and 4 were supposed to be built prior to 2000 but that never happened and now units 1 and 2 are 15 years past their expiration date.

      The reason is the extra costs such as when Bechtel screwed up the design (part of the team mirrored the plans of Unit 1 to build Unit 2 and part of the team overlaid the plans causing major retrofitting work) combined with the extra costs of all the protests by the likes of Jackson Browne which delayed bring the plant on line for almost 10 years.

      PG&E had to recoup all those costs somehow so why not bribe the NRC to certify the units for an additional 20 years?

      • gozounlimited

        THANKS….. Finally getting the straight story. Depending on which msm article read…. provides plenty of disinformation purposed to feed the pro-nuclear propaganda machine. Sorry about health impacts you have experienced…. while living in Cayucos I noticed several premature deaths related to plant management, operation and frequent media alerts reporting radioactive leaks.

      • gozounlimited

        THANKS….. Finally getting the straight story. Depending on which msm article read…. provides plenty of disinformation purposed to feed the pro-nuclear propaganda machine. Sorry about health impacts you have experienced…. while living in Cayucos I noticed several premature deaths related to plant management, operation and frequent media alerts reporting radioactive leaks.

      • jo6pac

        Yes, Thanks.

  • Sonokar

    Pacific Gas & Electric company and Bechtel did the same thing in Avila Beach, CA. when they built the twin dome nuclear plant in Diablo Canyon back in the 1960’s. A tsunami hitting the central coast of California could easily take out Diablo Canyon Nuclear plant and the cave at the back of the plant yard where they store the waste in large underground pools.

  • Randa
  • Rehmat

    Former NSA analyst and freelance journalist, Jim Stone, claims that Israel was behind the nuclear terror, in response to Tokyo’s offer to enrich uranium for Tehran.


  • Fakir Smith

    Why don’t they just blame Bush? Works for obama. Hopefully the Japanese have ADHD as bad as Amercians. That way they won’t even remember anything tepco did tomorrow.

  • Nassim7

    The real damage was caused by the earthquake which preceded the wall of water. The ground moved by several feet and severed all piping, wiring and conduits and thereby destroyed the whole complex. Please stop perpetuating the myth that the damage was caused by the water.

    Tsunamis can reach a limited number of places in Japan whereas severe earthquakes can occur anywhere.

  • J-M

    It was all planned, come on open your eyes. Who In their right mind would build a nuclear reactor In a tsunami proned area, lower the ground elevation to make sure a tsunami would wipe out the nuclear plant. The did It on purpose obviously. Population control. Build a nuclear plant and set It up for a hit by a tsunami and say duh, we didn’t expect that. I dont buy It for 1 second. How many of you would build a nuclear plant In a tsunami proned area… you don’t need to be a rocket scientist either

  • http://enria.org/ Freemon Sandlewould

    Common sense. Not going to happen when governments or large concessions given to corporations by government is involved.