Friday, 25 March 2011

Reassurances Fall Flat

Daya Bay nuclear plant which is close to Hong Kong
As the Japan nuclear crisis continues for a second week, fears in Hong Kong have subsided over salt hoarding (after derision from the rest of the world), and now have turned to the Daya Bay nuclear power plant that's right across the border in Shenzhen.
The mainland Chinese operator of the plant is desperately trying to reassure Hong Kong people that a nuclear accident like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is virtually impossible.
Daya Bay Nuclear Power Operations and Management Company explained that the plant was built to stringent designs and standards which enabled it to withstand a powerful earthquake, and also that its location meant tidal waves were highly unlikely even though it is located just up the coast from Hong Kong in Daya Bay.
Chen Tai, a nuclear safety specialist at the plant, said tsunami were unlikely to develop in shallow coastal waters. The biggest recorded in Guangdong waters was less than 50 centimetres.
"The only serious casualty I can recall is that one person suffered from a broken finger," he said.
Daya Bay is not in an active seismic zone thankfully, where the area's strongest quake measured 6.0 on the Richter scale was 60 kilometres away in 1991. Chen also said the plant could withstand a 8.0-magnitude quake.
In the wake of Japan's quake, the plant will be conducting two safety drills in June and November.
It's good to know the Daya Bay plant is not in a quake zone, but nevertheless, Chen and his cohorts should not be smug in thinking nothing will ever happen to the nuclear power plant.
Even if there isn't an earthquake, accidents can happen as we saw in Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl.
And even if the plant has disaster contingency plans in place, companies and governments around the world need to start thinking about a number of worst case scenarios that could possibly happen because as what happened Fukushima shows us, almost every disaster happened to it and it's still ongoing.
Also while a disaster plan may look good on paper, in reality it could fail miserably. Companies and governments really need to step up now and examine their disaster management skills. Because anything can happen.


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