Tuesday 21 November 2017

Nuclear disaster was man-made, says Fukushima meltdown study

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the head of a parliamentary committee investigating the causes of the Fukushima accident, looks at the monitor of his laptop during a news conference in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters
Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the head of a parliamentary committee investigating the causes of the Fukushima accident, looks at the monitor of his laptop during a news conference in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters

Martin Foster in Tokyo

The Fukushima nuclear meltdown was a "man-made" disaster caused in large part by Japan's culture of deference as well as collusion between the government, regulators and the plant operator, according to an official study.

The scathing report, comm-issioned by Japan's parliament, said the meltdown of three reactors after they were overwhelmed by a tsunami in March last year was "Made in Japan".

"Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the programme'; our groupism and our insularity," said the 641-page report.

The world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years could have been avoided were it not for "ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organisation that deals with nuclear power".

Regulators, it said, had been reluctant to adopt global safety standards that could have helped to prevent the disaster in which reactors melted down, spewing radiation and forcing about 150,000 people from their homes.

"We found a disregard for global trends and a disregard for public safety," said the panel, which was chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, of Tokyo University.

"Nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same bureaucracy responsible for its promotion."

Collusion

A lack of transparency, reluctance to accept managerial independence and the Japanese way of doing business behind closed doors worked to breed collusion and may have contributed to the disaster.

The panel said the accident "was the result of collusion" between the government, the regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the plant's operator.

Naoto Kan, who was premier at the time, resigned last year after criticism of his handling of the crisis.

The report was released on the day nuclear power was reintroduced into Japan's grid for the first time since the disaster.

A reactor in Ohi, in western Japan, has been restarted as the government set aside widespread public objections and sought energy supplies to cope with summer heat. Experts have said that an active fault may lie under the plant.

The report followed a six-month investigation involving more than 900 hours of hearings and interviews with more than 1,100 people, the most rigorous inquiry so far.

It pointed to numerous missed opportunities to take steps to prevent the disaster, citing lobbying by the nuclear power companies as well as a "safety myth" mindset that permeated the industry.

Analysts said that the seniority system in large Japanese organisations such as Tepco prevented the development of a healthy corporate climate driven by open debate.

"Even if juniors had justifiable criticisms of company policy, they have been trained not to voice them," said Edwin Merner, president of Atlantis Investment Research Corporation in Tokyo. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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