How tenacity, a wall saved a Japanese nuclear plant from meltdown after tsunami
By Richard Read
on August 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM, updated November 06, 2013 at 3:57 PM

United Nations inspectors marveled this month that the nuclear plant closest to the epicenter of Japan's massive earthquake survived virtually intact, averting a Fukushima-style meltdown.

"With the earthquake of this magnitude, we would have expected the plant to have more damage," said Sujit Samaddar, leader of a U.N. nuclear watchdog team, at a Tokyo news conference. "This indicated there were significant margins in the designs."
According to a retired civil engineer I interviewed in March, there's one man to thank for averting a catastrophe worse than Fukushima, which spewed radiation across an area where 100,000 people still can't return home.

He is Yanosuke Hirai, who died 26 years ago, too soon to witness the disaster and too early to become a national hero.
Colleagues told Tohoku Electric's president that 39 feet would be sufficient. But Hirai, trained by the formidable Yasuzaemon Matsunaga, known as Japan's king of electric power, disagreed.

"Matsunaga-san hated bureaucrats," Oshima said. "He said they are like human trash. In your country, too, there are probably bureaucrats or officials who never take final responsibility.

"So Matsunaga's attitude was that you've got to go beyond the regulations," Oshima said. "If you just follow the regulations, you end up with what happened at Fukushima Dai-ichi. That's what Matsunaga told Hirai, and Hirai taught me." ...