The head of the IAEA talked about this with Kyodo News recently. The seismic “isolated” building, sometimes referred to as the bunker building at Fukushima Daiichi was a critical component to being able to fight the disaster at the plant. The building was built to resist earthquakes and to deal with a number of disaster scenarios. Equally important was the building’s ability to filter its own air and the independent power sources for the facility.
This building provided not just a command center but a safe place for workers to hide from the high radiation levels outside. Workers who remained in the reactor control rooms ended up with extremely high radiation exposures and much higher than those who spent most of their time in the bunker building. This facility also allowed the workers at the plant to communicate with TEPCO’s home office and government officials in Tokyo to inform them of what was going on at the plant. Without this building workers would have had to abandon the plant as radiation levels rose and most of the other buildings on site were destroyed.
What has worried the IAEA and many others is that Japan’s power companies are now trying to avoid building such facilities at operating nuclear plants. Japan’s NRA has left open the potential for allowing this to happen. Currently none of the operating reactors in Japan have such a bunker building on site. The US does not require a similar facility at any of their plants.
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