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With all of the disarray in the nuclear village of Japan, there had to be a story of someone doing something right. I finally found one: Tōhoku Electric Power Company, called Tōho Den, which is located in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, which runs the Onagawa nuclear power plant.
Why did the Onagawa NPP survive the disaster of March 11? It experienced the highest ground shaking of all of the NPP in Japan and also survived a 13m tsunami.
The story begins in 1968 when Hirai Yanosuke joined the costal planning committee for the construction of the Onagawa NPP. Hirai-san was a former VP at Tōho Den and a former head of technology research at the Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry. He died in 1986.
Hirai-san was apparently the only person on the entire project to push for the 14.8-meter breakwater. Many of his colleagues said that 12 meters would be sufficient, and they derided Hirai-san’s proposal as excessive. Hirai-san’s authority and drive, however, eventually prevailed, and Tōhoku Electric spent the extra money to build the 14.8m tsunami wall. Some 40 years later, on March 11, 2011, the 13m tsunami struck the coast at Onagawa.
Having been a resident of Japan for almost 10 years, and the manager of risk consulting for two companies which deal with nuclear power, I would like to share with you all my observations.