The whole world has been watching in somewhat disbelief the amount of devastation that’s occurred in Japan following the massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunamis that wiped out entire towns and killed more than 10,000 people thus far.
As we’re learning, earthquakes and tsunamis seem to go hand in hand. And unfortunately, surviving the earthquake doesn’t always guarantee survival of the tsunamis, which causes devastation and loss of power. In fact, the last great natural disaster to hit America was Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The real loss of life and damage wasn’t from the hurricane itself but rather the flooding that took place after the hurricane broke down the New Orleans levee system.
Currently, the biggest story out of Japan is centered on the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Daiichi, a few hundred miles northeast of Tokyo. While the nuclear plants withstood the actual earthquake, it was the storm surges from the tsunamis that destroyed the power plants’ backup cooling system – an essential part of the nuclear energy creation process. Backup diesel power generators are on hand to cool the water if the main cooling systems shut down, and even those generators seem to have failed according to Japanese officials.
Backup diesel power generators became a larger part of the utility’s safety fabric following the vents of Sept. 11, 2001, when New York City and the Twin Towers suffered a devastating terrorist attack. As per new guidelines, backup diesel power generators are to be on hand at utility and nuclear power generation facilities in order to support the cooling systems and avoid a meltdown.