Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Fukushima - Let Engineers Engineer

Fukushima – the shit that happens when engineers must bow to committees.

The events transpiring in Fukushima over the last several weeks raise the question of culpability. Who is ultimately to blame?

Fair enough, it took a natural event to cause the devastation, BUT, in a nation that is used to earthquakes and tsunamis, and the only nation on the planet to have been targeted by nuclear weaponry, I would think safety concerns would by in the forefront of design engineers’ minds.

I believe we are seeing here a similar situation to that of the space shuttle ‘accidents’, of which “Challenger” is the one closest to everyone’s’ hearts.

This incident was of course not an engineering failure. The engineers involved issued clear warnings on record that the solid boosters were faulty. Of course, a committee decided to ignore this advice and proceeded to launch. Now where in god’s name have we evolved to the point where a meeting of diverse individuals has the power to make decisions on things they are totally unsuited to make?

I can easily envisage a situation before and during the construction of the Fukushima nuclear plant: The designers draw their blueprints, taking all relevant factors into account. Consideration is given to contingencies; backup generators are planned, Power feed from the national grid is included. Perhaps the intention is to site the plant a few thousand metres inland, on higher ground (after all, it’s just a few extra welds to extend the pipeline for cooling water feeds. I can see the engineers considering the low ground, and advising that the diesel generators should be raised above ground level to prevent flooding, even making plans to install triple or quadruple redundancy to critical systems

Then I can just as easily see a committee (aka board of directors) saying, no, that will cost more than building it closer to the ocean, those triplicate, reinforced external power feeds are unnecessary, raising the diesel plants up there is just going to reduce ‘shareholder’ profits….

So now, because a group of accountants, clerks, and other non-technical trades felt they knew better than those whose profession it was to build such equipment, the common people of a nation are suffering, and the region is subjected to nuclear contamination which will last for aeons. Nor only Japan must bear the brunt of these incompetent office staffers, the environment suffers, surrounding nations are affected, and other people from other parts of the world risk life, health and limb to contain the mess that could have been avoided had those most suitable to make such decisions been allowed to do their job, unhindered.

Isn’t it time there was an international court, answerable to no-one, to prosecute these board flunkies for interfering. Should not these business executives and the shareholders they represent be required to bear the cost and the consequences of their greed to maximise the profit incentive…

I say, leave those best suited to any undertaking to get on with it. Put them in charge of deciding how their projects should proceed. Give them the power to veto any board of laymen’s decisions when it impacts on their specialities, no matter what the field of endeavour.

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