Process Fun of the Week: Ratted out...the beast behind the Fukushima blackout

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Sam Miranda

Calling all cats to protect Japan's nuclear assets.

The culprit - albeit a severely frazzled one - behind the power cut at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Monday, 18th March has been identified.

Owners of the site, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), blamed a rat for causing the power failure that crippled cooling systems for spent fuel pools. The rodent triggered the short-circuit of a switchboard, culminating in a 29-hour blackout.

TEPCO officials were quick to downplay fears of overheating or radiation, stating that the temperature of the fuel pools was never close to exceeding the 65 degrees celcius mark, but the incident still served as a poignant reminder of the Fukushima plant's frailties. In March 2011, it was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami, leading to the meltdown of three reactors and radiation leaks that saw 160,000 local residents evacuated.

Muneo Morokuzu, professor of nuclear regulation at Tokyo University, claimed that TEPCO could have no excuses for the quality management failure: "A short circuit caused by a small animal is not an unforeseeable event." TEPCO's priority will be to restrict access to the switchboard, and install a back-up power supply.