Japan’s Recent Earthquakes and Tsunami Has Highlighted Weaknesses in theSafe Design of Buildings, Nuclear Facilities and Oil Refineries; ReportsHazardology
The ongoing tragedy affecting Japan should bring to attention the risks associated with structuraland process design in high hazard locations. Urgent in-depth independent reviews are required toensure the safety of existing facilities. Designers and operators around the world need to providemore detailed assurance to investors, governments and the general public, that buildings and complex operational facilities are safe.
Vancouver, Canada, March 17, 2011 --(PR.com)-- The events in Japan have demonstrated that structuresand facilities are potentially not as safe as originally perceived for the companies that commission them,and to members of the public. The 40-year-old nuclear power plant that has been leaking radiation,implemented an evacuation order of 20km, impacting 185,000 residents.Specialist safety consultant and hazardology.com spokesperson, Anna Buchanan explains:-“The nuclear facility was designed with numerous protection and failsafe shutdown systems, as well asbackup systems for emergency conditions. This was a standard design philosophy for all high hazardfacilities, and this concept still exists today. However, the intensity of the earthquake and tsunami hascaused an abnormal operational condition that no one had previously predicted or modeled, and thereforewould not think to protect against.“Due to technological advances in engineering design over recent decades, there has been an overconfidence in the definition of worst-case scenarios for design. It is apparent that modern day confidencein design creates a reduced factor of safety. This could potentially reduce the overall quality andconsequent robustness of design when exposed to the reality of extreme conditions.“The oil refinery east of Tokyo experienced a dramatic fire shortly after the earthquake at its LiquefiedPetroleum Gas (LPG) storage area, that holds 25 LPG spherical tanks. One of the LPG spheres caughtfire, resulting in a massive BLEVE - a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. The fire at the facilitywas successfully contained, nullifying a domino effect, and thus preventing a further major catastrophe.“Japanese residents believed that their houses were designed to withstand an earthquake and tsunami,only to discover disintegrated remains of their property. Moreover, the concrete seawalls designed toprotect against tsunamis were overwhelmed, a similar catastrophe akin to the New Orleans leveesbreaching. The cost of worst-case design is rarely planned. The expected 'unexpected' was completelyunexpected(!).“What we can all learn from this devastation is to never underestimate the abnormal and major eventscenarios when designing buildings, structures and operational facilities. Industry and governmentsshould take this sobering opportunity to review original designs of industrial facilities to demonstrate thatthey can be operated and maintained safely for the immediate and long-term future. The original basis of