Report Says Fukushima Meltdown Preventable
July 6, 2012
Just as Japan has switched two of its nuclear reactors back on for the first time in many weeks, an independent commission has labeled the Japanese nuclear meltdown at the Fukushiima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant a "man-made disaster" that could have been prevented.
In a report called for by the government, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission identified a series of errors, instances of negligence, insufficient safety procedures, and some large problems endemic to Japanese society.
Just last week, two of Japan's nuclear reactors got the go-ahead to return to power generation, amid concerns that power needs during the hot summer months would overwhelm the country's electricity grid. The reactors were in western Japan, a long way from Fukushima.
All of the country's 50 nuclear reactors had been switched off, pending a review of energy policy in the wake of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.
The tsunami swept through large parts of northeastern Japan, killing 15,000 people in its wake. The quake also triggered the accident at the Fukushima plant, and it is the commission's finding that the resulting meltdown at multiple reactors, displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes for miles around, was not inevitable.
First and foremost, the commission said, the government was too focused on using nuclear power, regardless of necessary regulation. The plant, supposedly under the watchful eye of the government and of owner-operator the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), did not have in place adequate security or communication procedures, the commission concluded, based on evidence-gathering and interviews with key officials. In addition, the commission found that disaster containment and evacuation plans were lacking.
As the disaster unfolded, the commission found, the government was too reticent to specify the severity of the damage and, as a result, some people who would have otherwise left their homes were victims of the radiation that spewed into the air after the meltdown. Government communication was slow and confusing, the commission found.
The report called for vigorous discussion, in government and in Japanese society as a whole, of its recommendations, which also included an independent regulatory group, a revised public health and welfare systems that includes provisions for long-term disaster care, and fundamental changes in the country's crisis management system.
Leading the commission was Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a former president of the Science Council of Japan. Other members included professors, lawyers, journalists, seismologists, and other scientists.
TEPCO, already a target for nationalization in order to save it from bankruptcy, had no comment on the report