Swagelok Northern California Blog

How Swagelok Helped Limit Damage after Japanese Earthquake

Swagelok plays a key supporting role in AVANTech's efforts to cleanup radioactive water at Fukushima


This moving 6-minute video recounts how AVANTech, Swagelok Columbia, and Swagelok Company worked together to help limit the spread of radioactive water in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Emergency response needed

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 caused widespread worry beyond the immediate damage. One of the structures hit by the quake was the nuclear plant in Fukushima. A South Carolina water treatment company, AVANTech, was called on to design and manufacture an emergency system for the reactor to keep radioactive water from reaching the streets of the city and, eventually, the ocean.

"My initial reaction was 'this is something that really needs to be done right now, or they're going to be spilling radioactive water into the ocean. This really is an emergency.'" said David Langan, Director of Operations at AVANTech.

A trusted partner

AVANTech had been working with the nuclear industry for 25 years, and they were uniquely qualified to take on a project of this magnitude. Since the system they designed involved a lot of tubing, valves and fittings, AVANTech turned to their local Swagelok sales and service center, Swagelok Columbia for help. 

"Avantech has a standard list of people that we depend upon, Swagelok being one of them. And we have a knowledge that when they say they can get a part to us in a given amount of time, that that can be done," said Tracy A. Barker, Principle Engineer at AVANTech.

"They were just a few weeks into design when we got a call. And it was an urgent situation because they were about to get into flooding at the reactors where this contaminated water was going to be running over - running into the countryside - and it would be of unimaginable harm," said Rod "Buzz" Busbee, Managing Director at Swagelok Columbia. 


... quality was of the utmost concern and we wanted to make sure that when we deployed something that we knew it was going to  work no questions asked 100% of the time. And we got that with Swagelok.


Doing whatever it takes to deliver on time

Swagelok Columbia delivered. That meant not only getting the parts out the door on time to AVANTech, but making sure that enough of everything was on hand by the shipping date. AVANTech had only six week from start to finish to design and to deliver the system.

On the manufacturing end at its Ohio headquarters, Swagelok Company pushed the project to the front of the line, asking for volunteers to work overtime and on weekends to quickly put the order together. This job required much more than a few boxes of fittings. The total order involved about 6,000 linear feet of tubing, plus case after case of fittings. 

"We received an emergency call from Buzz Busbee. He stated that it was to help the Japan effort," said Barb Morley, a service specialist with Swagelok. "And we had felt so deeply for the trauma that they had gone through, that we would do everything possible to help them recover. We right away jumped on it and contacted our scheduling teams."

Doing the impossible together

AVANTech did the seemingly impossible and delivered a water treatment system that worked perfectly the first time out of the box.

"I felt it was my duty to go in and try to help them with this problem, to clean this up. "It was very emotional. I put my whole career into this," said Tracy A. Baker, Principal Engineer, Principal Engineer AVANTech.  "We designed something in a short period of time, delivered it. It has worked better than our client could have ever thought it would have worked with no leaks.

We were able to pull this together as a team and make this work and actually clean up the water very very quickly." said David Langan, Director of Operations at AVANTech. 

"The key part that Swagelok played for us was that quality was of the utmost concern and we wanted to make sure that when we deployed something that we knew it was going to  work no questions asked 100% of the time. And we got that with Swagelok.  They were a key part of our team," said James L. Braun, President at ANANTech. "And the one thing I want to say is, and I do get emotional with some of this, Fourth of July, we're here shipping this equipment and we make a phone call. Swagelok parts are here on the fourth of July. Most people are out grilling, or partying, or doing their thing. And you say 'we need these parts,' and we got them. So, that's a big deal." 

When I see this kind of heroic effort by a Swagelok customer, a fellow Swagelok sales and service center, and Swagelok Company, it makes me proud to be part of the Swagelok family. Please take a moment to watch this video.


additional resources


Learn about application support services

Learn about custom solutions here

Swagelok Quality  Performance under pressure.  More »

get in touch

In a hurry or have a question? Please click here to get in touch - we respond fast! Or call 510-933-6200.


Topics: Fittings Swagelok