Define "unsafe"

I sense that it may be necessary to add the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa incident to the Other accidents page, since it has been exploited by the fuddites far more than I had (naively) expected. Over at NEI Nuclear Notes, a commenter is milking it for all its worth.
Secondly, NEI can try to mitigate reality all they want...this quake has shown nuclear reactors to be unsafe, and with each passing hour, the number of SIGNIFICANT issues at the world's largest reactor site continue to grow.

This raises one important question: what does "unsafe" mean? Does it mean that the device is impervious to all forms of damage and fault? Or does it mean that the device is suitably designed so as to prevent harm to the public?

It is universally agreed that cars themselves are safer than they were decades ago. That is not just due to inventions such as seat belts and airbags. It is also due to the engineering of the vehicle itself. Such advancements are commonly made the subject of some adverts.

One such advancement is the inclusion of crumple zones. These are areas of structure in the front of the car built to collapse in the event of an impact. In collapse, they absorb the energy of collision, thereby ensuring it does not pass to the occupants, hurting or killing them. The car essentially is designed to fail, sacrificing itself, in order to save the occupants.

So safety of cars was improved by allowing them to be more heavily damaged from collisions. The importance of this is the fact that those automotive engineers had a very clear idea as to what constitutes safety. Safety is about protecting people from harm, not about protecting equipment.

If we apply this to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, we reach one inescapable conclusion: the power station is safe. This is because no-one has been hurt as a result of it. Some equipment, especially the transformer that caught fire (not a nuclear event anyway), was damaged. Some LLW containers were knocked over (and I'm sure LLW storage methods will be reviewed), but the radioactivity released was less than the radioactivity from the hordes of feral journalists hunting down the Tepco officials for a statement.

Did the earthquake do damage to other parts of the massive facility? There's a good possibility of that and safety critical equipment should be checked as soon as possible. But equipment fault does not equate to lack of safety as long as it does not endanger the public.

We have no evidence of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa bringing credible threat to the public, certainly not on the scale of the devastating earthquake itself, which has killed 8 people and injured hundreds more. Therefore, to say the power station is unsafe, is pure FUD.

On a more general note, Japan has been waiting a long time for an overdue earthquake. Let us hope this was it.

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