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I Want For You To Know What Kind Of Thing A Genpatsu (Nuclear Power Plant) Is - Parts I ~ III

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“I Want For You To Know What Kind Of Thing A Genpatsu Is” (in 21 parts) was written prior to the author’s death illustrating the abhoring nature of the ones administrating Japan’s nuclear power indsutry.


About the Author

Norio Hirai • 平井 憲夫 (1938 – 1997)

Born in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture. A veteran in the making of Japan’s genpatsus, he was renowned for his skilled craftsmanship, experience, and knowledge within the industry. Instrumental in the construction of: Fukushima, Hamaoka, Shimane, Tokai, and Tsuruga; the majority of Japan’s genpatsus, many of which are still in commission.

  • Certification: Skill Level 1 Industrial Piping
  • 1988: Resigns from the nuclear power construction industry
  • 1990: Establishes and chairs the Genpatsu Hibaku (radioactive exposure) Laborers Relief Center
    • Extends relief efforts to genpatsu hibakushas (victims of radioactive exposure)
  • Chief Advisor: Nuclear Accident Investigations National Council
  • Special Council to Plaintiff
    • Suspension Trial
      • Hokuriku Electric Power Company, Noto (now Shiga) Genpatsu”
      • Tohoku Electric Power Company, Onagawa Genpatsu
  • Witness to Plaintiff
    • Operational Ban Lawsuit
      • Fukushima Dai-Ni, #3 Reactor

Faced by a shortened life from radioactive exposure and witnessing the dark side of Japan’s nuclear power industry during his tenure, he set out on a mission testifying in court actual situations relating to flaws in the industry, he also held speech engagements throughout Japan; informing the public the bleakness of the nuclear power industry’s structure. Single and with no heirs, he was found dead at home on New Year’s Day 1997.

The Genpatsu Hibaku Laborers Relief Center defunct because of no successors.

Rest In Peace…


I. I Am Not An Antinuclear Activist

First, I am not an antinuclear activist. For 20 years, I worked onsite for a general contractor with the Japanese nuclear power industry. There are many controversies toward nuclear energy such as: agreeing to it, the dangers, safety, etc. I just want you to know “this is how it is.” I will talk about the realities inside of genpatsus that many are not aware of. Also, if you read this till the end, you will understand genpatsus are not what you think, everyday they give birth to hibakushas, leading to great prejudice that I believe you will begin to realize while reading this.

There will be many things you will hear for the first time. Do bear with me till the end; I hope it will make you seriously think about genpatsus.

About genpatsus, there is much talk regarding the design, but there are not many, like me, who speak about the construction and discrepancies. If you have no seasoned experience onsite, you will not understand the truths of a genpatsu. I am a utilities expert specializing in industrial piping for chemical plants. Word was out, “a genpatsu is going to be built in Japan”; I was scouted for the job in my late 20′s and worked onsite as a supervisor for many years so I am very familiar with what goes on inside of many genpatsus throughout Japan.


II. “Safety” Is Only Desktop Talk

Last year’s (1995) Great Hanshin Earthquake sprang much fear and concerns from the public.  Questions such as: “Won’t there be damage to a genpatsu from an earthquake?” and “Are genpatsus really OK during earthquakes?” and so on. The truth is, genpatsus are never OK. The prefecture and energy companies emphasize safety by seismic design and convey facilities are built on solid rock. This is based only from the desktop.

I went to Kobe the day after the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Overwhelmed by the disaster, I started realizing many things in common with genpatsus. The fallen shinkansen (bullet train) tracks, the highway on its side… No one could have imagined this!

Generally, public utilities such as genpatsus, shinkansens, and highways are thought to go through strict inspections under prefectural and municipal authorities. However, what I witnessed were flaws in the infrastructure’s construction. The shinkansen’s fallen piers had left over scraps of wood in the concrete, welding for the highway pillar’s steel framing were melted inward, the welding was very poor. In some cases, things looked like they were welded but actually were not!

“What is going on and how could this have happened?”, I wondered. Then it dawned on me that the root cause was focusing too much on theoretical design and the lack of focus onsite during construction. Even if that wasn’t the direct reason, accidents like this do occur…


III. Genpatsu Built By Novices

Even with genpatsus, there are cases of wire(s) in the reactor, forgotten tools sealed in pipes, i.e., enormous cases of human error.  Onsite experienced shokunins (artisans) are few, however superior the design, it is not built the way designed. The debate during the desktop design phase is “the absolute requirement for genpatsu construction will be executed by highly skilled shokunins.” However, questions regarding the skills of the ones building the genpatsu and what goes on in the field have not once ever been debated.

As for genpatsus and all construction sites, from the workers all the way to the inspectors, the reality is, they are all novices. So, if a major accident happens at a genpatsu, on a shinkansen or highway it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Japanese genpatsu design excellence is superb. Double, triple, multiplexed protection, and if something malfunctions it automatically stops… This is only during the virtual and design phase. It’s already screwed up when in construction phase. For instance, when building a house, even if you had an awesome architect design it for you, if the carpenter’s skill is low, the house will start leaking during rains and doors will eventually not shut right. Unfortunately this defines Japan’s genpatsus.

Initially at construction sites, there was always a shokunin ranked Boushin, a head honcho with overwhelming knowledge and experience compared to everyone else. Boushins held pride in their work, accidents and negligence were very disgraceful. They knew very well the horrors of accidents. From about 10 years ago they no longer exist in the field becaue the hiring of novices became industry policy. Novices are not familiar with the horrors of accidents, people of this sort don’t know the havoc shoddy construction and negligence can bring about. This is the current reality of genpatsus.

For example, at the TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima genpatsu, they were running the reactor neglecting a wire that had fallen into it; this had the potential of becoming a major accident involving the whole world! The person who dropped the wire and was fully aware of the situation, never thought it could have led to a major accident, no thought whatsoever! In that sense decrepit genpatsus are dangerous and the ones built by novices are just as bad.

Ever since the cutting of onsite shokunins, foolproof measures by way of manuals have become the industry standard. I am not talking about referring to drawings and then building. What goes on is prefabricated parts are delivered from the factory and are just assembled like Lego blocks. In doing this, you have no insight of what you are accomplishing nor the importance and seriousness of it. This is also the reason frequent accidents and breakdowns occur.

In addition, the genpatsu workplace has issues where you are exposed to radiation, ruining your chance to have children. Working in a genpatsu is dark and you can’t even socialize because you are wearing a protective mask. Communicating is done by hand signs. In an environment like this you’re unable to teach someone proper skills.The ones with skill have exceeded their yearly permissible exposer to radiation and refrain from entering the area. It eventually ends up like this all the time. This is the reason hiring novices will do.

Another example is, shokunin welders ruin their eyesight after time. By age 30 they are done with. Unable to perform detailed work, they are no longer needed at petroleum plants. Acknowledging the fact, they think about working at genpatsus even if the wages are low.

People have a misconception, they assume a genpatsu equals high-level technology… There’s no such luxury of that sort.

Therefore, do keep in mind genpatsus are built by novices. Genpatsus from now on will really become a hopeless dilemma.


Will continue… 4/21

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