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My impression - from understanding gathered along the way, not from deliberate study, and that's an important disclaimer - is that nuclear technology was often in the past attempting to move ahead faster than its ability to provide full security. It began (and continues) as a military technology, and testing in the postwar decades showed little or no regard for the environment and human life and health (see American testing in the US SW and the Pacific, French in the Pacific, USSR in Kazakh SSR). Civil nuclear came into being in the context of that arms race, with military researchers and engineers providing the know-how. This isn't to say they were slipshod or had no security concerns, but I don't think they were, 40 years ago, better able to get on top of an out-of-control accident than now.

TEPCO has certainly shown ineptitude, and this may be linked to its being a private company concerned with profit. It may also be linked with sheer force of habit over the decades producing a culture in which the thought of major risk has gone out of currency. All the same, if the quake and tsunami had happened early in the life of Fukushima Dai-ichi, the outcome would have been probably similarly catastrophic, because the station just wasn't planned for so much havoc.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 05:35:24 AM EST
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