Archive for July, 2012

Japan’s Fukushima NAIIC Report – Home Truths from Abroad !?!

2012-07-09:  Very recently, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, established by the Diet of Japan (National Parliament, comprising the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors) under the NAIIC Act of 30 October 2011, issued an English Executive Summary of its Final Report.

Instead of concentrating on the Fukushima NAIIC Conclusions and Recommendations, which I would usually do in a case like this … I am reproducing below the Message from Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Fukushima NAIIC Chairman, from the beginning of the Executive Summary.  After you read it, you will understand why.

His words are stark, and cut deep to the bone … revealing some unpleasant home truths about Japanese Society and Culture.  BUT … a very large measure of those truths is universal … and there is much of direct relevance which can, and should, be applied in other parts of the world.  I will discuss this issue in more detail again.

THE WEST IS NOT THE BEST !!

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Colour photograph showing a Birdseye View of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactors after the 2011 Explosions. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Birdseye View of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactors after the 2011 Explosions. Click to enlarge.

The Executive Summary Report contains a Brief Overview of this ‘Real’ Extreme Event, which commenced on 11 March 2011 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan … a Summary of the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission’s Findings … and the Important Conclusions and RecommendationsAppendices present Surveys of Evacuees (10,633) and Workers (2,415).

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Black and white photograph of Kiyoshi Kurokawa - Chairman of the Japanese Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) Chairman. He is a Medical Doctor, an Academic Fellow of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Former President of the Science Council of Japan. Click to enlarge.

Black and white photograph of Kiyoshi Kurokawa – Chairman of the Japanese Diet’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). He is a Medical Doctor, an Academic Fellow of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Former President of the Science Council of Japan. Click to enlarge.

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MESSAGE FROM FUKUSHIMA NAIIC CHAIRMAN – KIYOSHI KUROKAWA

THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI, of 11 March 2011, were natural disasters of a magnitude that shocked the entire world.  Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster.  It was a profoundly man-made disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.  And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.

How could such an accident occur in Japan, a nation that takes such great pride in its global reputation for excellence in engineering and technology ?   This Commission believes the Japanese people – and the global community – deserve a full, honest and transparent answer to this question.

Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima Plant unprepared for the events of 11 March.  And it examines serious deficiencies in the response to the accident by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), 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’.  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.

Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same.

Following the 1970’s ‘oil shocks’, Japan accelerated the development of nuclear power in an effort to achieve national energy security.  As such, it was embraced as a policy goal by government and business alike, and pursued with the same single-minded determination that drove Japan’s post-war economic miracle.

With such a powerful mandate, nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by civil society.  Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion.  At a time when Japan’s self-confidence was soaring, a tightly knit elite with enormous financial resources had diminishing regard for anything ‘not invented here’.

This conceit was reinforced by the collective mindset of Japanese bureaucracy, by which the first duty of any individual bureaucrat is to defend the interests of his organization.  Carried to an extreme, this led bureaucrats to put organizational interests ahead of their paramount duty to protect public safety.

Only by grasping this mindset can one understand how Japan’s nuclear industry managed to avoid absorbing the critical lessons learned from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl;  and how it became accepted practice to resist regulatory pressure and cover up small-scale accidents.  It was this mindset that led to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant.

This report singles out numerous individuals and organizations for harsh criticism, but the goal is not – and should not be – to lay blame.  The goal must be to learn from this disaster, and reflect deeply on its fundamental causes, in order to ensure that it is never repeated.

Many of the lessons relate to policies and procedures, but the most important is one upon which each and every Japanese citizen should reflect very deeply.

The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset that supported it can be found across Japan.  In recognizing that fact, each of us should reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society.

As the first investigative commission to be empowered by the legislature and independent of the bureaucracy, we hope this initiative can contribute to the development of Japan’s civil society.

Above all, we have endeavoured to produce a report that meets the highest standard of transparency.  The people of Fukushima, the people of Japan and the global community deserve nothing less.

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Japanese Diet’s 2012 Fukushima NAIIC Executive Summary (in English)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (2.2 Mb)

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