Intelligent Energy

How to avoid a nuclear meltdown: Question authority

How to avoid a nuclear meltdown: Question authority

Posting in Energy

Japanese parliamentary report gives damning assessment of country's obedient culture, blaming it for Fukushima nuclear meltdown caused by deep rooted business and government failings.

Japan needs more of this, its Parliamentary committee concludes.

A Japanese parliamentary committee has blamed last year's meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on a catalogue of manmade errors, including a culturally ingrained  Japanese unwillingness to question authority.

While the immediate trigger of the nuclear disaster was the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami that knocked out generators that powered cooling systems, it was a litany of shortcomings in Japanese business and government that set up the possibility - and the subsequent inadequate handling - in the first place, the committee concludes.

In a damning report by the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, excerpts of which the BBC posts on its website, chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa writes of the accident,

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 program'; our groupism; and our insularity.

Kurokawa's executive summary cites gross deficiencies among nuclear regulators and at the utility that operated the plant, TEPCO. He says that the nuclear accident,

Cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster - that could and should have been foreseen and prevented...

Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11. And it examines serious deficiencies in the response to the accident by Tepco, regulators and the government.

For all the extensive detail it provides, what this report cannot fully convey - especially to a global audience - is the mindset that supported the negligence behind this disaster. What must be admitted - very painfully - is that this was a disaster "Made in Japan."

The report goes on to cite "collusion and lack of governance," noting,

[All parties] failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements - such as assessing the probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a serious radiation release.

The report also singles out in its own words:  "organizational problems within TEPCO; emergency repsonse issues; evacuation issues; continuing public health and welfare issues; regulator failures; operator failures; (and) shortcomings in laws and regulations."

It says there are "no cosmetic solutions," and warns that, "Unless these root causes are resolved, preventive measures against future similar accidents will never be complete."

The report comes as Japan restarts two nuclear reactors, after it shut down all of its 54 reactors following the accident. Prior to the events at Fukushima, nuclear power had provided about 30 percent of Japan's electricity.

Image: Northernsun.com

More Japanese power on SmartPlanet:

Click here for a collection of SmartPlanet stories on alternative nuclear technology, including thorium, fusion, modular and fast neutron reactors.

Share this

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure