Entries in Fukishima Daiichi Nuclear Plant (3)


Japan's Nuclear Disaster Was ‘Man-Made,’ Investigation Finds

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan was a “man-made” accident caused by a utility and government regulators who put self-interest before the interest of the public, an independent parliamentary commission reported Thursday after a six-month investigation into the crisis.

The 641-page report, the first of its kind with wide-ranging subpoena powers in Japan’s constitutional history, is the result of more than 900 hours of hearings and 1,100 interviews with officials, including the former president of operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, Masataka Shimizu, and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The findings by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission detail a scathing indictment of TEPCO and the nuclear regulatory agencies that coddled the utility, despite knowing the risks of their purported inaction.  It also criticizes Japanese leadership, saying Kan’s cabinet “lacked the preparation and mindset to efficiently operate an emergency response to an accident of this scope.”

The panel writes the direct causes of the Fukushima accident could have been prevented.  Nuclear regulators and TEPCO were aware since 2006 that a large scale tsunami would lead to a power outage at the plant.  They also knew the risk of reactor-core damage from the loss of seawater pumps.  

TEPCO “intentionally postponed putting safety measures in place,” while the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission essentially looked the other way, according to the investigation.

“We found evidence the regulatory agencies would explicitly ask about the operators’ intentions whenever a new regulation was to be implemented,” the commission writes.  “From TEPCO’s perspective, new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits.”

Three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns, after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to the cooling systems last year.  More than 80,000 people were displaced as a result of the radiation fallout.

Contrary to TEPCO’s own investigation, which cites the tsunami as the main cause of the nuclear accident, the parliamentary report says the quake might have significantly damaged equipment necessary to ensuring safety.  TEPCO was quick to blame the “unexpected” tsunami for the accident, not the “foreseeable earthquake” in order to avoid responsibility, the panel writes.

“This was a disaster ‘Made in Japan,'” commission chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa said in the report’s introduction.  “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.”

The report was issued on the same day a nuclear reactor went back on the power grid in western Japan, for the first time since the Fukushima accident in March 2011.

All 50 of Japan’s reactors have been offline since May for maintenance and safety checks, but Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has aggressively pushed to bring them back online to avoid power outages during the peak summer months, despite widespread opposition to nuclear power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Japanese Officials Withheld 'Worst-Case Scenario' Docs

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- New reports say Japanese officials hid documents that laid out the worst-case scenario during the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year because they didn’t want to scare the public.

Kyodo News reports that government leaders feared the plant’s crippled reactors could release massive quantities of radioactive materials for about a year. That would have forced millions to evacuate – but one Japanese official says “the content was so shocking that we decided to treat it as if it didn't exist.”

More than 80,000 people in the Fukushima area remain displaced because of radiation concerns.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japanese Official Drinks from Radioactive Puddle

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- A Japanese official agreed to drink water collected from the around the earthquake-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Yasuhiro Sonoda reportedly appeared nervous and his hands were shaking as the scene unfolded at a televised press conference in Tokyo.

The water was decontaminated, and Sonoda agreed to drink the water after a reporter questioned just how safe the decontamination process was. The water was taken from puddles surrounding the two troubled reactors, which were damaged by the earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Mr. Sonoda serves as the cabinet office’s parliamentary spokesman.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio