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Thursday 22 October 2020 00:47:57.30.
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Wpisał: Tsuyoshi Inajima   

Fukushima Disaster Was Man-Made, Investigation Finds


By Tsuyoshi Inajima, Jacob Adelman and Yuji Okada on July 05, 2012

The Fukushima nuclear disaster was the result of a mix of “man-made” factors including regulators who failed to provide adequate prevention and a government lacking commitment to protect the public, said a report from an independent parliamentary investigation.

The accident “cannot be regarded as a natural disaster,” the panel’s chairman, Tokyo University professor emeritus Kiyoshi Kurokawa, wrote in the report released today in Tokyo. “It was a profoundly manmade disaster - that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.”

The report, the harshest critique yet of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), also said the investigation can’t rule out the earthquake on March 11 last year caused damage to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 reactor and safety equipment. This is a departure from other reports that concluded the reactors withstood the earthquake only to be disabled when the ensuing tsunami hit the plant.

This finding may have implications for all of Japan’s nuclear plant operators if it leads to tougher earthquake- resistance standards. The operators reported combined losses of 1.6 trillion yen ($20 billion) in the year ended March owing to safety shutdowns of the country’s 50 reactors and higher fuel bills when they started up gas and oil-fired plants. Two reactors have since won approval to restart.

Revisit Assumptions

If the Fukushima reactor had already been crippled by the quake when the tsunami hit, it would force regulators to reconsider the seismic criteria that all of Japan’s plants need to live up to, their so-called design basis, said Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California who has researched nuclear safety in Japan.

“This finding basically puts into question some of the design basis assumptions that we have,” Meshkati said in a phone interview. “If this reactor got some damage because of the earthquake, we really need to go back and revisit some of our assumptions that we have for the design basis of other reactors.”

The six-month independent investigation, the first of its kind with wide-ranging subpoena powers in Japan’s constitutional history, held public hearings with former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s ex-president Masataka Shimizu, who gave conflicting accounts of the disaster response.

Other Reports

Three other investigations led by the government, the utility and a private foundation said in earlier reports that they found no evidence of major damage to reactor buildings and equipment at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station from last year’s March 11 quake. They concluded the plant was swamped by a 13-meter tsunami that followed the quake, knocking out backup power generation and causing the meltdown of three reactors.

Radiation fallout from the reactors forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people and left land in the area uninhabitable for decades.

The independent commission has 10 members, including its chairman Kurokawa. The group comprises a seismologist and a former nuclear engineer who have warned of safety risks at atomic plants and have criticized the government’s nuclear energy policy.

Lacking Information

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former nuclear equipment engineer at a unit of Hitachi Ltd. (6501) and a member of the commission, and Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, are among those who have said the quake may have caused more damage to the Fukushima plant than so far reported.

The commission’s report also said the Fukushima situation was worsened by government mismanagement, while adding that the utility known as Tepco can’t use the government as a scapegoat as its own information disclosure through the disaster was lacking.

Japan’s parliament in December appointed Kurokawa, a doctor of medicine, to head the investigative panel.

Kurokawa clashed with the government when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his cabinet approved a bill on Jan. 31 to create a new nuclear regulatory agency.

“It is very hard to understand how the cabinet decision has been made” before the panel finishes its investigation, Kurokawa said in the statement. One of the panel’s missions is to make recommendations including the reexamination of Japan’s nuclear policy and administrative organizations to prevent a future nuclear accident, Kurokawa said.

Higher Cost

After amending the bill on the new regulator to give it more independence, the parliament passed the legislation on June 20. The new watchdog to be established as early as September, will replace the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission, two regulatory bodies criticized for their poor handling of the Fukushima disaster.

Forcing Japan’s reactors to undergo expensive retrofits for earthquakes could make nuclear power less competitive compared to other sources, said Andrew DeWit, a professor at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University who focuses on energy policy.

“Once you start doing these revisions - you’ve got to build huge walls, you’ve got to do all kinds of things,” DeWit said. “It’s raising the cost of power.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at; Jacob Adelman in Tokyo at; Yuji Okada in Tokyo at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Langan at


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