Former Japanese PM: Japan woefully unprepared for nuclear disaster

By Brien Southward

Japan's former prime minster Naoto Kan said in an exclusive interview with AP that his nation was unprepared for the Fukushima disaster and that it should not have been built near the ocean on a tsunami-prone coast. Similar concerns abound in the United States, where environmental groups have criticized the design of the older GE Mark I reactor, 23 of which are currently operating in the country.

Naoto Kan also acknowledged flaws in his nation's communication and coordination between nuclear regulators, utility officials and the government under his administration. The disaster was the worst since the Chernobyl incident in 1986, but Kan, who stepped down in September, says that it did lay bare a host of bigger vulnerabilities in Japan's nuclear industry and regulation.

Some experts have criticized the design of the older Mark I GE reactors, such as former nuclear engineer and Vermont Yankee plant critic Arnie Gundersen, and say that the three separate core meltdowns during the Fukushima disaster prove that the design cannot prevent the release of radiation during a meltdown.

General Electric has defended the reactor design used at Fukushima, saying that it has been operating safely for more than 40 years and that no nuclear plant could have avoided a meltdown after being struck by a natural disaster like the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. According to GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy spokesman Michael Tetuan, "There is no nuclear plant operating today that would have performed differently."

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