News

New Study Says Japan 'Lucky' to Avoid Wider Disaster

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant No.6 (L) and No.5 reactor buildings are seen from a bus window in Fukushima prefecture, File February 20, 2012
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant No.6 (L) and No.5 reactor buildings are seen from a bus window in Fukushima prefecture, File February 20, 2012

The authors of the most comprehensive independent report on Japan's nuclear reactor meltdowns last year say the country was “very lucky” to have avoided a “worst-case scenario” that would have prompted the evacuation of Tokyo. But they warn that dangers remain because of the way Japan's nuclear industry is managed and regulated and how plants in the country were built.

The 420-page report says the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was made worse because the plant's nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools were too close to each other and, and that the same problem exists at other nuclear plants in Japan.

Woefully unprepared

The report, which took six months to compile, is based on interviews with 300 people conducted by about 30 investigators, including academics, lawyers and freelance journalists.  It finds that Japan was woefully unprepared for the unprecedented compound disaster.

The commission's chairman, Koichi Kitazawa -- a former head of Japan's science and technology agency -- says a “myth of absolute safety” blinded the nuclear industry and government regulators. “We found that Japan, as a whole, was not ready at all to manage the crisis, from the accident site to the premier's office,” Kitazawa stated.

Another of the report's commissioners, Tetsuya Endo - the former chairman of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency - says Japan was more concerned about preventing public panic than sharing information.  He says, therefore, there was no comprehensive communication between the U.S. and Japanese governments in the critical, initial days of the crisis.

“So both sides got rather suspicious of each other's intentions. It took about two weeks to rectify that situation,” Endo explained.

Starting point

The commission did not delve into legal responsibilities, but suggests its report should be the starting point for any criminal case.

The veteran journalist who launched the foundation overseeing the report, former Asahi Shimbun editor Yoichi Funabashi, was asked by a reporter (Thursday) whether anyone should go to jail for what happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“I feel personally that should be the case,” Kitazawa noted.

Muted response


The government and the utility which operates the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (known as TEPCO) have had a muted response to the commission's report -- saying they have not had enough time to review it.

TEPCO did not cooperate with the commission. But investigators interviewed some retired officials of the utility. They noted there was “deep distrust” between Prime Minister Naoto Kan's top policy makers and the power company. The commissioners also revealed there was a similar distrust between TEPCO's headquarters and those on site at the Fukushima plant, as the reactors melted down.

Nearly one year after the March 11th disaster, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami, the Fukushima plant is still relying on makeshift equipment and pouring water into the three damaged reactors to maintain their stability. Dangerous levels of radiation continue to hamper critical inspections and repair work.

Officials say it is likely to take many decades before the crippled plant can be decommissioned.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs