Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fail Safe Failure

The events in Japan demonstrate how easy it is to bring an advanced, highly industrialized nation to its knees, if you hit it just right. Or hit it in multiple ways simultaneously. The combined strength of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami was more that some system were designed to handle, most notably the nuclear power stations. I hope they get them under control soon, otherwise we'll never hear the end of it from the anti-nuclear crowd. (Please forgive the black humour in these difficult times.)

While the plants withstood the initial earthquake (a laudable achievement, given the severity of the 'quake), the fact remains that they did not fail safely once they lost electricity. It's obvious that someone assumed that the backup generators would always work. And they would have, if not for the tsunami, which overwhelmed the seawalls and flooded the plant.

I hope that the operators of every nuclear plant in the world are asking themselves: how will our facilties handle that situation? I believe in nuclear power, but if you can't do it right, it's best to stay out of the game.

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