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TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday, after an explosion at one crippled reactor damaged its crucial steel containment structure and a fire at another reactor spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments.
"This earthquake is a lesson in humility," says Emile Okal, a geophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who studies great earthquakes and tsunamis. Few experts had thought that the seismic zone near Sendai, Japan, was capable of producing earthquakes anywhere near as powerful as the magnitude-9.0 shock on 11 March, the largest on record in Japan. Okal and his colleagues want to understand why the event was so much stronger than many people expected -- and what it means for seismic risks in Japan and elsewhere around the globe.
The film tells the story of the rise of nuclear power in America, Britain and the Soviet Union. It shows how the way the technologies were developed was shaped by the political and business forces of the time. And how that led directly to inherent dangers in the design of the containment of many of the early plants.Those early plants in America were the Boiling Water Reactors. And that is the very model that was used to build the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Three of them were supplied directly by General Electric. In 1966 the US government Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards tried to force the industry to redesign their containment structures to make them safer. But the chairman of the committee claims in the film that General Electric in effect refused.And in 1971 the Atomic Energy Commission did a series of tests of Emergency Core Cooling systems. Accidents were simulated. In each case the emergency systems worked - but the water failed to fill the core. Often being forced out under pressure.