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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs