Can landscape architects make a contribution to the safety of nuclear reactors, like Fukushima?

Large scale planted and reinforced earth mounds would provide use protection against Tsunamis

With much sympathy for the plight of North Japan, I make the suggestion that the Fukushima Nuclear Reactors might have been much better able to resist the force of the Tsunami if there had been a 50m+ planted grass mound between the four reactors and the sea: (1) it would have cost very little money in proportion to the good it might have done (2) it would have made the Fukushima site more beautiful, because most industrial clutter is at ground level (3) it would have had ecological benefits (4) the earth might have been of use in an emergency.
So if any of our readers manage coastal nuclear reactors and would like help with the design of a protective bund, please use our contact form and I will find a former University of Greenwich landscape architecture MA student to do the job for you: there are few countries without them. If the above suggestion is impractical, they will be able to help you with energy saving through sustainable landscape architecture and planning – so that your country will have less need for nuclear power.
Image courtesy Beacon Radio

14 thoughts on “Can landscape architects make a contribution to the safety of nuclear reactors, like Fukushima?

  1. Christine

    Perhaps Europe have a Nuclear free future?
    [ ]

    It seems as if a debate around safety and technology has been restarted.[ ] However, although safety and technology played a role, the Chernobyl accident was reportedly caused by human error rather than a natural disaster. [ ] So there are most probably a range of possible causes for a nuclear disaster.

    Tom, I am not sure if a 10m + high protective bund would be practical. [ ] Also, if you did build a 10m+ high bund would it protect from the range of waves which might be possible in these or differing circumstances?

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Wiki already has an excellent article on the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami which gives a range of heights for the tidal wave from about 3-10m. I have spent a lot of time watching waves hitting rocks and guess that a 50m bund would give protection, especially if it was shaped to guide the water. Model tests would give a difinitive answer. And given what has happened, I think it would be wise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to protect the reactors. I liked the Australian PM’s turn of phrase when he said his country would do ‘anything and everything’ to help Japan. It is the right spirit for international relations in the age of globalisation. They are one of the UK’s areas of technical expertise!
    Helping water to take the path of least resistance might be seen as Wu wei (无为) – an ‘action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort’.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Michael: I agree about minimising the consumption of energy. But (1) if we are going to have nuclear power stations then them must be protected to the fullest extent (2)please see this comment on sustainable energy and, better, the report on which it is based (3) you remind me of the debate when UK nuclear power stations were being built. Some landscape architects refused to work on them. My argument was that IF they are going to be built then the landscape profession should do its best to make them AS BEAUTIFUL AND ECOLOGICAL AND SAFE as possible. (4) there is still a possibility that nuclear fusion reactors will produce an abundance of cheap clean power.

  4. Michael

    Of course, when we think about our profession only as a service it is maybe right. But when we look back at the last then years, we changed our complete communication system with email and sms systems. And this is a period to change a society and also technologies, 5 to 10 years. It starts with the technologies from the last two/five years, like solar and LED. The Japanese disaster is the next step to showing that although using nuclear power may be clean, we cannot control the risk and the waste material coming out of process. Nuclear power is an idea which dates from the beginning of the 20th century, and in our time it made a profit only for a small group of people. We have to think locally. In some areas we have the sun for energy, in other areas we have wind, water power, hot water or hot rivers, and in some areas we need a mix of some of this, maybe in north Europe. The most units in our homes to be work with 3, 6, 9 or 12 volts, why we have 110 or 230 volt systems?

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    I think we need to distinguish between our actions as citizens and our actions as professionals. As a citizen, I agree with your views about energy. As a professional, I see it as my job to give whatever advice I can to improve and conserve the landscape, asethetically, ecologically and functionally.
    In the UK, the energy generators lied. They promised that nuclear energy would be cheaper. It never was. But the French seem to be able to make a profit from nuclear generation and if the oil price went to $200 then nuclear power would look like a good buy. I think the health risks exist but that they are exaggerated in the public mind.
    In any case, something needs to be done about nuclear safety. The world has 443 nuclear reactors and this is expected to more than double in the next 15 years, according to the World Nuclear Association. China has 11 reactors in operation and plans to start construction on as many 10 new reactors/year during the next decade, as its electricity usage rises at 12 percent a year. Chinese landscape archtitects should consider how they can contribute to nuclear safety and environmentalism. Ditto India. it has 20 nuclear reactors in operation and expects nuclear power to supply 25% of India’s electricity by 2050 (a tenfold increase from 2011).

  6. Christine

    Good start…landscape planners and other design professionals can surely contribute something to the aesthetic setting of the new ‘industrial’ machinery? (After all the mobile phone has come a long way since the first mobile phone call in 1973!)[ ]

    Already Scotland is combining offshore wind turbines and wave turbines in innovative ways.
    [ ]

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    The optimist in me (often counterbalanced by the pessimist) makes me say ‘Yes definitely’ to the possibility of incorporating new structures into the landscape.
    What a pity the white haired man in 1973 probably did not live to see young men riding their bikes at speed while having a conversation on a hands-free phone.
    My worry about Scotland is that since they recovered their parliament, after a 300 year break, they have been handing out thoughtless money-making planning permissions with a lack of restraint which would make an Irish property developer blush.

  8. Rumen Radanov

    Interesting. Improvements could be achieved in the construction of the building itself, where the reactor is located I suppose, to provide full protection. Because the problem came from the earthquake and the tsunami combined. The mound would not help the quake resistance. 50 m grass mound like the one on the collage picture shows that all these little facilities near the shore on the original photo, which are part of the plant in immediate access to waters need to be relocated. How would this interfere with the process? Also, the stretch, the lenght of the mound is an issue and the overall height of the plant above sea level. I think improvements should be done, starting with the core of the reactor, cause it seems that there was a crack caused by the earchquake which initiate the problem. Starting from inside out we can get to the correct landscape security decision. A series of banks like this one could be even better idea and moving the plant even further inland. Michael, alternative energy is really expensive, in the midst of this recession, no one would be able to provide it in the quantity needed and afford it…in order to maintain our current lifestyle. Any major lifestyle and society change will be met with anger as we see around the world.

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    Retro-fitting and keeping the reactor working would, I am sure, be impossible. But surely the Fukushima site can have no future in power generation – and surely it will need Tsunami-protection for ‘thousands of years’. They have given Chernobyl a concrete jacket but this would not be worrying in an earthquake zone. A very large mound would be earthquake proof and, if high enough, Tsunami-proof. It is a question for engineers, geologists and landscape architects to review. The great thing is NOT to leave the responsibility to optimistic engineers alone. They are too optimistic.

  10. Christine

    Without a great deal of knowledge of the geological and engineering requirements of geothermal and their suitability to Japan, it would seem there is potential to exploit what nature has provided in abundance to produce clean energy in Japan. [ ]

    Perhaps a joint venture between Mannvit [ ] and Toshiba [ ], in consultation with geologists and landscape architects, to fully exploit the geothermal potential of Japan might deliver cheap, reliable, plentiful, locally available, sustainable (in harmony with nature) clean energy?


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