General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Should the executives be the first ones to undertake the suicide missions to save the failing nuclear reactors in Japan?

Asked by gorillapaws (28266points) March 16th, 2011
35 responses
“Great Question” (6points)

The executives and other “suits” were the ones making decisions about the safety and adequacy of the backup systems at these facilities. They were also likely paid large salaries justified by the great responsibilities they supposedly took on.

Now that self-sacrifice may be required to prevent a total meltdown, shouldn’t the people who have profited the most be the first in line to risk their own lives to limit the damage they are at least partly responsible for?

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SeaTurtle's avatar

Yes. A captain should go down with his ship, so to speak.
Also should the president be on the front line armed and ready when instructing his country to invade a foreign nation?
Hell yeah!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There is a lot at stake in a potential meltdown, and I’d prefer to see the people who can solve the problem pulled in immediately to come up with a solution. Would these people be the executives? If not, let them use their position power and money to get it resolved…and quickly. This isn’t the time for finger-pointing.

Brian1946's avatar

I think the most qualified volunteers to resolve the situation should undertake those missions, but they or their loved ones should receive executive-level compensations instead of whatever “suits” are responsible for these crises.

funkdaddy's avatar

Sometimes horrible things happen, it doesn’t mean someone is to blame. There’s enough misery to go around and I’m sure the executives (whoever that is) are not immune.

Japan has limited natural resources, a large, densely packed population, and huge power needs.

It’s easy to say “Don’t use nuclear power”, but what would do instead if you were the “suit”? Finger pointing without a solution is just wasted energy and drama.

Bellatrix's avatar

They should only be the ones in there if they can actually stop a melt-down. Otherwise, regardless of who was making the decisions, I would rather have the experts in there.

Also, the plant executives weren’t responsible for the Japanese government’s decision to use nuclear power in an earthquake prone zone. And whether they were right or wrong is another complicated question.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m just wondering how much of an expert you need to be to carry a hose up to a room with spent fuel rods that have boiled off.

It seems like if you take on massive salaries under the pretext that you deserve such huge quantities because you’re shouldering the burden of large responsibilities, then when the shit really does hit the proverbial fan you should be first in line to do what needs to be done. Otherwise you never were really shouldering that responsibility and obtained all of that money fraudulently.

Bellatrix's avatar

I am pretty sure the people living around that reactor would prefer the guys who really, really understand how reactors work to be making the decisions right now. I don’t know who IS in there. It might be the execs or the it could be the scientists or the engineers. I certainly know if I lived close to it I would want the people who can make decisions quickly based on what is happening with that reactor. The blame game and who deserved their salary can wait until the thousands of people whose lives are at risk are hopefully, and please let it be so, safe and sound.

jerv's avatar

Great symbolism, but no. I think it best to let the trained professionals handle the “boots on teh ground” stuff while the execs commit seppuku.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

No, the people with the skills should be the ones containing the situation. I don’t think anyone is to blame either – it was plate tectonics that led to the crisis, not executives.

Hibernate's avatar

Doesn’t matter who’s fault is there “were” people resposable for the good working process of such things. But like in a game of chess the pawns are the first who will fall. So no matter what public opinion will be or no matter what we think the “suits” as you call it won’t risk anything.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Hibernate I don’t know of any job description where a Richter 9 earthquake is factored in to ‘good working process’ plans.

gorillapaws's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh someone made the decision to keep building more and more reactors at the same location. Such a decision has proven to be disastrous.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@gorillapaws : I would suggest you do a little research into the pay structure at Japanese companies. They are not at all similar to Western style salary systems.

I worked for the Japanese and lived there for many years. I knew the head of the company personally, and he did not make a exorbitant salary.

The reactors did what they were designed to do. They withstood an unprecedented Richter 9 earthquake that lasted for 6 minutes. The mistake was in the backup pumps that could not withstand an unprecedented 10 meter tsunami, which the reactors themselves withstood. It should be pointed out that 1 cubic meter of water weighs 1 ton.

This was not some minor incident. It was not negligence. For heavens sake, this cataclysmic event shifted the tilt of the entire planet by 8 cm.

If you’re looking to assign blame, then place it where it belongs with the tectonic plates that make up the mantle of the Earth.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Salary compensation in Japan is different than in the US; they don’t compensate executives as they do in the US

asmonet's avatar

That’s fucking stupid. That works if you’re the kind of person who has warped ideas about justice and you like to have the poor little guy mentality.

But sending CEOs to fix nuclear meltdowns is guaranteeing loss of life on a massive scale. Even if asked purely as a hypothetical – it serves no purpose.

Do you honestly think their job is just to carry a hose and plop it in?

tedd's avatar

There are no actions the CEO’s or executives in this case could have taken to prepare their nuclear plant for a 9.0 earthquake. We’re lucky the whole thing didn’t just collapse.

And sending them to do a job they likely have no idea how to do is idiotic.

@gorillapaws There is hardly a nuclear plant on the planet that doesn’t have multiple reactors. Chernobyl had four for example.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@gorillapaws Would you rather have a small community reactor in every neighbourhood? Industrial structures are always built together on industrial zoned land.

Austinlad's avatar

Thank you, @hawaii_jake, for bringing knowledge and experience to this thread.

iamthemob's avatar

All of the good “no” reasons have been stated. So…I’ll say no…simply no.

Shegrin's avatar

I agree with what you’re saying to some extent, but by your rationale, we should also hold Chris Nolan responsible for Heath Ledger’s “non-suicide.” Or, we should blame Japan for being on a major fault line. (They should have known better.) While this seems like the right thing to do, it’s arbitrary. I’ll bet the Japanese executives are beating themselves up right now. In that culture, suicide is a viable alternative if it saves face. If not, then they do everything necessary to regain the public’s fickle trust. This is a possible nuclear holocaust we’re talking about. It’s not something you can sweep under the rug.

MacBean's avatar

Absolutely not. That’s just ridiculous. A-freakin’-men to @asmonet‘s opening paragraph.

YoBob's avatar

I believe that executives should take responsibility for their decisions. However, executives are trained to be executives whereas the technicians are trained in the more practical aspects of getting things done. If I am in an aircraft with engine trouble I damed sure want the best pilot available in the cockpit, not some pencil pusher from the plant that build the engine.

I second the amen to @asmonet response: “Do you honestly think their job is just to carry a hose and plop it in?”

mattbrowne's avatar

It was executives, not plate tectonics that led to the crisis. Because plate tectonics is well understood. For many decades. Every scientist knew what to expect from plate tectonics especially when near to the Pacific Ring of Fire. And these scientists told the executives. Hell, the word tsunami is a Japanese word. Smaller and larger ones are part of Japanese history. The “Big One” was bound to happen. And it happened. It will happen in California too. No one will be surprised, except maybe the most ignorant people. Or people in denial. But there’s a difference between a “Big One” with or without nuclear power plants. Cities can be rebuild. Radioactivity is bound to stay. For a very long time.

What happens in Fukushima I – Unit 3?

What happens in Fukushima I – Unit 4?

If the spent fuel rods cannot be cooled and they start a fire, all hell can break loose. This could mean that all the brave workers sacrificing their lives will have to leave or stay and die within hours. Radioactivity will intensify tremendously.

If the executives volunteered it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

I agree with all previous answers stating that the most qualified people should do the job.

Cruiser's avatar

The honor code of the Japanese is legendary and I think you would have a hard time getting those workers to give way to anyone else doing their job.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@mattbrowne : If the executives are to blame, why did they insist on building reactors that would withstand a Richter 9 earthquake? If the executives are to blame, why did they insist on building reactors that would withstand a 10 meter tsunami? It was not the reactors that failed in the face of these catastrophes. It was the back pumps for the cooling system.

Saying the big one is bound to happen is like playing roulette. I can continue to place my money on #22 all night, because it’s bound to come up and still be completely wrong. The logic behind the idea of a big one anywhere in the world is spurious. Earthquakes happen. That’s a fact, but the size is impossible to predict.

What does the fact that the word tsunami being Japanese have to do with any of this? That’s like saying that because the word croissant is French, then the French must have invented breakfast bread.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne Why do you think that nuclear plants are designed the way they are? Now, we all know that you are anti-nuke, so I suppose status updates like this one will not sway you in the slightest. But keep in mind that the plants have done remarkably well even under these extremes. That means that someone did something right whether you will ever eeven think of admitting it or not.

And trust me, not all cities can be rebuilt. As for the radioactivity, I think you might want to educate yourself about the half-lives of the stuff that actually has been released both in Japan and Chernobyl; they are considerably shorter than the thousands of years that you proclaim. Nitrogen-16, much of what has been released, has a half-life of seven seconds. That means that within a minute, 99.5% of it has already decayed to inertness. Iodine-131 clocks in at eight days. Shall I continue?

I have to agree with @hawaii_jake that it’s almost a Monte Carlo fallacy. The fact that they played a long shot and designed the plant to survive worse-than-worst-case scenarios (like an 8.9 quake, many 6.0+ aftershocks, and the resulting tsunamis, along with multiple system failures) tells me that the execs listened to the scientists and covered their bases pretty damn well.

MissA's avatar

I enjoy a peek into how my fellow flutherers gather data and present their rationale. Tonight, in particular, @hawaii_jake and @jerv .

@mattbrowne , don’t you think it interesting about the half lives information that @jerv presented?

mattbrowne's avatar

The likelihood of an 8 – 8.9 earthquake is 1 per year.

The likelihood of an 9 – 9.9 earthquake is 1 per 20 years.

All democratic societies have to decide which risks are acceptable. There is no-risk free life. The majority of Japanese voters is (or was) in favor of nuclear power plants. They have been willing to take the risk.

Why did I mention that the word tsunami is Japanese? Well, I’d say that before 1946 the majority of Americans didn’t know the meaning of the word tsunami. In Germany before 2004, the majority of people didn’t know the meaning of the word tsunami either. Why did the English and German language borrow this word from the Japanese language? Well, for the same reason they borrowed the word democracy from the ancient Greek language. Democracy was a reality in Greece before it became a reality elsewhere. Japan is hit by a tsunami at least once a year. Large ones have occurred throughout its history. Japan is tsunami-country. The risk is well known.

And yes, the half lives information is interesting. Most unstable isotopes decay rather quickly. But not all of them, such as cesium-137.

MissA's avatar

@mattbrowne Is that cesium related to the plastic water/soda bottles?

mattbrowne's avatar

@MissA – Chernobyl created a lot of cesium-137. Wind and rain brought it to southern Germany. Wild plants eaten by boars still absorb it. These boars are being shot whenever possible with their meat ending up as toxic waste.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@mattbrowne : Can you cite sources for your assertions that certain size earthquakes happen so often? I think it’s important to mention that there is still no way to predict where that earthquake is going to happen.

jerv's avatar

… And another 5.5 about 45 minutes ago. Man, they can’t catch a break!

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