In the midst of the restart of nuclear plants, and the protests surrounding them, in Japan comes a damning report from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission. According to the executive summary, the nuclear crisis was caused by humans.
On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with a devastating earthquake, known as the Great East Japan Earthquake. Registering as a 9.0 on the Richter scale, the earthquake prompted a tsunami, which exacerbated the already prominent damage. After those occurrences, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, among other area nuclear power facilities, melted down, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents.
But the commission does not blame the earthquake or the tsunami for the nuclear crisis. Instead, the commission blames man – not any individual man or person, but human beings collectively. The first page of the report, a Message from the Chairman, says, “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.”
Titling the first section of the Conclusion a “Manmade Disaster,” the commission continues, “The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘manmade.’ We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.”
The report goes on to say that the causes of the accident were completely “foreseeable” before March 2011. The problems included lack of proper safety requirements such as the assessment of probable damage, the preparation of a containment of possible damage, proper evacuation plans. The operator, TEPCO, and the Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) were both aware of the need for structural reinforcement in order to meet guidelines. NISA charged TEPCO with the need to fix them, but by the day of the earthquake, nothing had been done.
The report was the first ever conducted by Japan’s constitutional government. The full summary can be found here.