Fukushima Disaster ‘Man-Made’ and ‘Avoidable’

A report released by a panel from the Japanese parliament declared that the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was avoidable.

Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of 2011, the plant suffered damage and radioactivity was subsequently discharged into the areas surrounding the power plant.

The New York Times said that before releasing its 641-page report, the panel, called the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation, had upwards of 900 hours of hearings and interviews. The panel talked to 1,167 people.

Instead of citing the unusually large tsunami as the source of damage at the plant, which is what the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), blamed, the report suggested that the earthquake could have been responsible for much of the damage. The commission viewed Tepco’s concentration of the blame on the tsunami and “not on the foreseeable quake” as “an attempt to avoid responsibility,” the New York Times reported.

Despite having knowledge that the plant was at risk of a far more powerful earthquake than it was designed to withstand five years before the 2011 disaster, Tepco and nuclear regulators still did not take necessary precautions. The report said, “there were many opportunities for taking preventative measures before March 11. The accidents occurred because Tepco did not take these measures” and the regulators did not push them to do so, according to the New York Times. These extra precautions would have been costly for Tepco and the report stated, “that was enough motivation for Tepco to aggressively oppose new safety regulations and draw out negotiations with regulators.” The report blamed the disaster on the “collusion between the government, the regulators, and Tepco.”

The BBC noted that thousands of people evacuated the area around Fukushima to avoid exposure to the radiation following the disaster. However, as the New York Times reported, the panel’s report criticized the government for not having a more well thought out evacuation plan. It took more than 12 hours for the government to make some residents living close to the plant aware of the situation, the report discovered.

The chairman of the committee, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, also characterized the “man-made” disaster as “Made in Japan,” that the culture of Japan was as much to blame as poor governance, “[The disaster’s] 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.”

The Guardian also noted that the report came out at the same time that the first nuclear reactor was reopened in Japan; every nuclear reactor in the country was shut down following the Fukushima disaster so their safety could be assessed.