1,400 Sue General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi for Fukushima Disaster

Will the Builders of Unsafe Nuclear Reactors Finally Face Scrutiny?

We’ve previously noted that General Electric should be held partially responsible for the Fukushima reactor because General Electric knew that its reactors were unsafe:

5 of the 6 nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors.

GE knew decades ago that the design was faulty.

ABC News reported in 2011:

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing — the Mark 1 — was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday’s earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s.

“The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. “The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release.”

***

Still, concerns about the Mark 1 design have resurfaced occasionally in the years since Bridenbaugh came forward. In 1986, for instance, Harold Denton, then the director of NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, spoke critically about the design during an industry conference.

“I don’t have the same warm feeling about GE containment that I do about the larger dry containments,” he said, according to a report at the time that was referenced Tuesday in The Washington Post.

“There is a wide spectrum of ability to cope with severe accidents at GE plants,” Denton said. “And I urge you to think seriously about the ability to cope with such an event if it occurred at your plant.”

***

When asked if [the remedial measures performed on the Fukushima reactors by GE before 2011] was sufficient, he paused. “What I would say is, the Mark 1 is still a little more susceptible to an accident that would result in a loss of containment.”

The New York Times reported that other government officials warned about the dangers inherent in GE’s Mark 1 design:

In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.”

This faulty design has made the Fukushima disaster much worse.

Specifically, the several reactors explodedscattering clumps of radioactive fuel far and wide.

In addition, the Mark 1 included an absolutely insane design element: storing huge quantities of radioactive fuel rods 100 feet up in the air.

The Christian Science Monitor noted:

A particular feature of the 40-year old General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor model – such as the six reactors at the Fukushima site – is that each reactor has a separate spent-fuel pool. These sit near the top of each reactor and adjacent to it ….

Indeed, the fuel pools have caught fires several times, and now constitute an enormous danger. [More.]

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Heck of a job, GE …

Unfortunately, there are 23 virtually-identical GE Mark 1 reactors in the U.S.

This is not to say that Tepco and the Japanese government are not to blame also.  They are.

But GE and the American government are largely responsible as well.

Greenpeace pointed out in in 2013:

Former Babcock-Hitachi engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka said in a Greenpeace video about a flawed reactor vessel Hitachi made for Fukushima: “when the stakes are raised to such a height, a company will not choose what is safe and legal. Even if it is dangerous they will choose to save the company from destruction.”

And Toshiba built 2 of the Fukushima reactors– including reactor number 3 – which is now rubble:

Investigative reporter Greg Palast also notes that Toshiba was one of the main designers of the failed diesel generators which failed during the earthquake and tsunami … and that the generator design was faulty.

A 1,400-person lawsuit has just been filed to hold GE – as well as the 2 other companies responsible for Fukushima reactor construction, Hitachi and Toshiba – responsible.

AP reports:

About 1,400 people filed a joint lawsuit Thursday against three companies that manufactured reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant ….

The 1,415 plaintiffs, including 38 Fukushima residents and 357 people from outside Japan, said the manufacturers — Toshiba, GE and Hitachi — failed to make needed safety improvements to the four decade-old reactors at the Fukushima plant ….

Are they doing it for the money?

Nope:

They are seeking compensation of 100 yen ($1) each, saying their main goal is to raise awareness of the problem.

Postscript: If these companies are not held accountable, they will do it again and again.  For example, the Department of Justice announced earlier this month:

General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas LLC (GE Hitachi) has agreed to pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concerning an advanced nuclear reactor design.  GE Hitachi, a provider of nuclear energy products and services headquartered in Wilmington, N.C., is a subsidiary of General Electric Company (GE) that is also partially owned by Hitachi Ltd., a multinational engineering and manufacturing firm headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.  GE is headquartered in Fairfield, Conn.

***

The government alleged that GE Hitachi concealed known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and falsely represented that it had properly analyzed the steam dryer in accordance with applicable standards and had verified the accuracy of its modeling using reliable data.

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  • Tonto

    It’s about time.

    And let me be the first to say, if the justice system fails to do its duty, then woe be to any judge who walks the face of this earth. Because such a failure is likely and rightly to give rise to events that will make the French Revolution look tame and even civilized.

  • Rehmat

    They’re suing the wrong parties. They should, instead, be suing Israel for the nuclear terror.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/07/07/israel-and-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

    • Tonto

      Sorry, Rehmat. The very nature of these deadly nuclear poisons and the way they we sold to the public as “clean, safe nuclear energy” virtually excludes any possibility of absolving these greedy, lying fiends. I know, I lived through the entire era when “clean, safe nuclear energy” was being sold to the public.

      Even if Stuxnet were to turn out to be involved, this does not by even the wildest stretch of an legal imagination exonerate the perpetrators of the “clean, safe nuclear energy” plot/scheme/hoax, because security has always been one of the primary concerns surrounding nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants were alleged and portrayed to be designed fail-safe, even were they attacked in war.

      All these lies were how these power plants were approved and permitted. And it is now well documented, the -scientists- who both designed and operated these facilities knew the whole notion of these nuclear plants being fail-safe was -a completely fallacious and wholly fabricated hoax on the pubic-.

  • martae

    All solid fuel reactors are expensive, and dangerous, relative to molten salt designs. Replace mark one’s with molten salt reactors.

    • Tonto

      martae- Look at what you are saying. You are saying, these same lying scientists who already lied to everyone, should be given free rein to go ahead with a similar technology because they are saying it is safe and clean.

      There’s an old saying in business, martae. Once, shame on you. Twice, shame on me.

      It’s time to hang these nuclear scientists up by the balls as an example to all the other scientific pretenders on the nuclear power front. Mankind does not need more energy. Mankind needs far fewer lying scientists.

  • Tonto

    I don’t know what is wrong with the twits on this board. People here are commonly proponents of ending the FED, because the FED is perceived as ruining the economy. Yeah, sure…

    People are for ending the Drug Enforcement agency, because the DEA is perceived as ruining the lives of lots of Americans. Yeah, sure…

    The truth is, folks, neither of these two government agency problems are anywhere nearly as clear cut as the problem with the corrupt and wholly political -approval- processes of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Our government should not be allowed to approve nuclear projects of any sort, given the track record.

    You are all just common dupes of the media, blind, and without a bit of critical thinking anywhere in your entire being. You each sit back and let Carl Herman post Ellen Browns’s silly bit about the honesty of public (read -political-) banking without looking at what is being said. You let the dweebs who post articles here, extolling the virtue of the Justin Bieber of fake whistle blowers, Edward Snowden… You let just about every off-the-wall article ride out its asinine theme, just as if you haven’t got a fucking brain in your head.

    This is what reading Michael Rivero’s What (Crud) Really Happened has done to all of you. It has commonly and quite wrongly made each of you think you have an opinion.

    YOU HAVE NO OPINIONS. YOU ARE ALL JUST IGNORANT DUPES.