The Atlantic Wire, in an article entitled "Meltdown: What Really Happened at Fukushima?" by Jake Adelstein and David McNeill, reports -- based on interviews with eyewitnesses, as well as a careful review of the catastrophe's timeline and even documented admissions made by Tokyo Electric Power Company itself -- that major damage to piping and other safety significant structures at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 -- the oldest reactor at the site -- may very well have begun the first meltdown, even before the tsunami hit. The article reports:
"The reason for official reluctance to admit that the earthquake did direct structural damage to reactor one is obvious. Katsunobu Onda, author of TEPCO: The Dark Empire, who sounded the alarm about the firm in his 2007 book explains it this way: 'If TEPCO and the government of Japan admit an earthquake can do direct damage to the reactor, this raises suspicions about the safety of every reactor they run. They are using a number of antiquated reactors that have the same systematic problems, the same wear and tear on the piping.' "
The article adds:
"On May 15, TEPCO went some way toward admitting at least some of these claims in a report called 'Reactor Core Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit One.' The report said there might have been pre-tsunami damage to key facilities including pipes. 'This means that assurances from the industry in Japan and overseas that the reactors were robust is now blown apart,' said Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear waste consultant. 'It raises fundamental questions on all reactors in high seismic risk areas.' "
Tsunamis are even more rare than already rare earthquakes. Thus, tsunami risks -- including to U.S. reactors -- can more easily be portrayed by the nuclear establishment in industry and government as exceedingly improbable -- even though a radioactively catastrophic one has just happened in Japan. Not only Tepco and the Japanese federal government were quick to obscure earthquake damage at Fukushima Daiichi, focusing attention on the tsunami's impact instead. Exelon Nuclear's CEO, John Rowe, who "serves" on President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future," was quick to downplay the earthquake's impact at Fukushima, instead highlighting the tsunami. An Exelon statement dated March 14th began:
"Exelon is closely monitoring the situation in Japan as it continues to unfold. While there is still a great deal we don’t know, from all information the company received so far, it appears that the damage to the Japanese plants was primarily related to the tsunami, not the earthquake."
A common "red herring" refrain of the U.S. nuclear industry since March 11th is that tsunamis are impossible at the many inland reactors across the U.S., while largely or entirely ignoring earthquake risks themselves, as well as other pathways (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, power outages, mechanical failure, human error, intentional attack, etc.) that could plunge reactors into station blackout, followed within hours by core meltdown and days by high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires.