Nuclear crisis was 'man-made and preventable'


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Japan's Fukushima meltdown resulted from 'collusion' among the government, regulators and the plant operator, an expert panel said reuters

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant last year was a "profoundly man-made disaster" that "could and should have been foreseen and prevented", a Japanese parliamentary commission concluded yesterday in a damning report.

The commission said the incident was brought on by "collusion" between the government, the regulators and the plant's operators, blaming the "ingrained conventions of Japanese culture" for the plant's failure after an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan's north-east coast on 11 March, 2011.

The report also raised doubts over the safety of Japan's nuclear plants as a whole by suggesting the Fukushima facility was damaged by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), has insisted that the plant was not damaged by the quake, only by the tsunami that followed it – a rare occurrence that was unforeseen by contingency planners, it said.

If true, the report's findings are a concern for the earthquake-prone nation, which last week restarted its first nuclear facility since all plants were shut down after the disaster.

In a striking admission, the report also highlighted Japan's cultural deference to authority as a key factor in the Fukushima crisis. "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," writes Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the commission's chairman.

"What must be admitted – very painfully – is 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."

More than 70,000 people were evacuated from the area around the Fukushima plant after power losses caused meltdowns in three of the six reactors. Thousands continue to live in temporary housing.