where the writers are
The Biggest Room
NY Times and Tokyo Shinbun.jpg


The biggest room anywhere is the room for improvement.  With this note, I feel privileged to list the following four items. (I wrote this post yesterday.)

  • 1. Tokyo Shinbun reported yesterday the differences in two tsunami counter measures. Tepco operates Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and Tohoku Denryoku, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant. The Onagawa plant is located in Miyagi prefecture and it was closer to the epicenter of the 9.0 than Fukushima Daiichi plant, but it had a little damage, and all the reactors have been stable.

For the Onagawa plant, Tohoku Denryoku estimated the worst tsunami at 9.1 meters high and built the plant on 15 meters higher ground which was 5 meters higher than the place Fukushima Daiichi Plant is.  Tepco estimated tsunami at 5.5 meters. 

I did hear on March 12th or 13th from a Tepco spokesman about their assumption, 5.5 meters tsunami.  I had no idea how high a tsunami climbs, so I felt sympathy to Tepco then.  Since March 11th, I've listening to new numbers for the highest tsunami.  It's been climbing up.  I heard "more than 10 meters" one day, "must be 14 meters or so," then yesterday, "It was in fact 16 meters," and according to Nikkei newspaper yesterday, Yoshiaki Kawata, a professor of Kansai University said the number, "50 meters."  He is a Disaster Prevention Engineering expert.   All the information came from reliable sources. 

I think all their numbers are matters of national security.  All the companies that own nuclear power plants need to share such important information among them.  On sharing, I don't mean to expect such as "Oh, I sent my report and mailed it," or "I don't know what they did with it because they haven't responded."   To me, this is not the way to sharing our concern.  To be responsible, sometimes, we need to be pushy!  For Americans, we use the word, persuasion, but for Japanese, I would use this wrong word, push push and push.  We need to persuade others to check and balance.

Also, according to the article, Fukushima Daiichi plant was built facing the vast Pacific Ocean, but the Onagawa plant was built inside a bay.  So the tsunami weakened a little by the time it reached the plant.

It sounds as though the design of the plant has flaws.  NY Times on March 25th  shows that the plant was built in 1970.  My goodness, it's very old for such a super technology..  I guess Tepco does not own reactors, but paying license fees yearly or something.  I don't know the detail, but IBM mainframe machines are similar.  We renew contracts for license, but IBM provides new machines, and computers don't explode.  So, this comparison is not the greatest, but l'd like to know the detail about the contract on maintenance.  I think GE has responsibility in the design of the nuclear plant and the maintenance is a part of the design, I think.  What do you think?

2.  I tried to find the article I've read, but couldn't find it, but I read that the regulators or engineers had recommended Tepco to retrofit the reactors before the earthquake happened.  Tepco has not responded, but the regulator gave renewal permission anyway.  Readers probably read that news because I think I read it in English. It must be more than a few days old papers.  Yes, I'm disturbed by this article, but I'm equally disturbed to have read it in English before finding the counterpart article in Japanese.  Maybe, I missed it because I'm not reading all the papers.  Now I try to read Nikkei, Asahi, and Tokyo newspapers, and sometimes, Yomiuri.

  • 2. Scheduled DR exercise is a must.

Companies need to follow yearly or whatever reasonable timeframe schedule for disaster recovery exercise. 

In 2008, the northeast general Inspection body conducted a disaster recovery exercise, Tokyo Shinbun reported yesterday.  The assumption was to be hit by magnitude 8.0 off the Miyagi coast.  It included two prefectures which house 22 towns in their cities.  Private companies joined them.  The article said, "The exercise excluded Fukushima prefecture.  Because the headquarters of Tepco is located in Tokyo, therefore scheduling coordination for the DR exercise would be difficult.  Tepco did not join the exercise.  It operates two nuclear power plants in Fukushima.  There is more to the article, but I stop translating it for now.

I can't tell you how important scheduled disaster recovery exercises are.  I used to be a disaster recovery contractor in systems.  My background is operating systems programming in mainframe computers.   I did data center merge, split, moves, and set up a disaster recovery exercise environment and scenario.  I did that from 1984 to 2008.  Although I don't know anything about nuclear reactor, I've learned quite a bit in last two weeks.  What I've learned is that the basic idea is the same.  We can't act properly at the time of crisis without exercises.  So, I recommend Tepco and all other companies to conduct scheduled DR exercises.

4.  Need to talk. 

PM Kan has been criticized to have visited Fukushima Daiichi at the time of crisis.  Boy, I can't believe this criticism.  This proves to me that Tepco executives and many people in Japan are not in tune with crisis management.  I knew all along that we are behind in setting up DR exercise and crisis management, but I thought by now, we must be equipped with such procedures.  I was wrong.  If a manager or two cannot receive PM at the problem site and communicate what's going on at the time of national crisis, we all are in trouble.  Communication is required especially in crisis.  I think we need to get used to that if we aren't.

Also, I want to add one more odd matter.  I didn't see any women among Tepco executives or in other scenes.  I think they can benefit from female talents.  I think at least she would have noticed the workers who were going into the Turbine room without rubber boots!