Thursday, July 05, 2012

Panel Says Fukushima Daiichi Disaster Caused By Human Negligence

A 10-member parliamentary panel investigating the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster concluded in its findings in a 640-page report Thursday that it was caused by human negligence on the part of government, regulators and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company. This is quite a charge since it has been generally accepted that the tsunami was the culprit in the disaster.  The report indicates that the cozy relationship between operator and regulator created vulnerabilities at the facility that would not have existed if there was more of an dynamic relationship.

Specifically, the panel concluded that regulators and Tepco "failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements,'' leaving the Fukushima Daiichi plant vulnerable to the earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11, 2011. 


A "Manmade" Disaster

The 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.

Earthquake Damage

We conclude that TEPCO was too quick to cite the tsunami as the cause of the nuclear accident and deny that the earthquake caused any damage. We believe there is a possibility that the earthquake damaged equipment necessary for ensuring safety, and that there is also a possibility that a small-scale LOCA occured in Unit 1. We hope these points will be examined further by a third party.

Evaluation of Operational Problems

The Commission concludes that there were organizational problems within TEPCO. Had there been a higher level of knowledge, training, and equipment inspection related to severe accidents, and had there been specific instructions given to the on-site workers concerning the state of emergency within the necessary time frame, a more effective accident response would have been possible.

Emergency Response Issues

The Commission concludes that the situation continued to deteriorate because the crisis management system of the Kantei, the regulators and other responsible agencies did not function correctly. The boundaries defining the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved were problematic, due to their ambiguity.

Evacuation Issues

The Commission concludes that the residents' confusion over the evacuation stemmed from the regulators' negligence and failure over the years to implement adequate measures against a nuclear disaster, as well as a lack of action by previous governments and regulators focused on crisis management. The crisis management system that existed for the Kantei and the regulators should protect the health and safety of the public, but it failed in this function.

Continuing Public Health and Welfare Issues

The Commission recognizes that the residents in the affected area are still struggling from the effects of the accident. They continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment. There is no foreseeable end to the decontamination and restoration activities that are essential for rebuilding communities. The Commission concludes that the government and the regulators are not fully committed to protecting public health and safety; that they have not acted to protect the health of the residents and to restore their welfare.

Reforming The Regulators

The Commission has concluded that the safety of nuclear energy in Japan and the public cannot be assured unless the regulators go through an essential transformation process. The entire organization needs to be transformed, not as a formality but in a substantial way. Japan's regulators need to shed the insular attitude of ignoring international safety standards and transform themselves into a globally trusted entity.
Reforming The Operator

TEPCO did not fulfil its responsibilities as a private corporation, instead obeying and relying upon the government bureaucracy of METI, the government agency driving nuclear policy. At the same time, through the auspices of the FEPC, it manipulated the cozy relationship with the regulators to take the teeth out of regulations.

Reforming Laws And Regulations

The Commission concludes that it is necessary to realign existing laws and regulations concerning nuclear energy. Mechanisms must be established to ensure that the latest technological findings from international sources are reflected in all existing laws and regulations.

Cosmetic Solutions

Replacing people or changing the names of institutions will not solve the problems. Unless these root causes are resolved, preventive measures against future similar accidents will never be complete.


Recommendation 1: Monitoring of the nuclear regulatory body by the National Diet A permanent committee to deal with issues regarding nuclear power must be established in the National Diet in order to supervise the regulators to secure the safety of the public. Its responsibilities should be: 1. To conduct regular investigations and explanatory hearings of regulatory agencies, academics and stakeholders. 2. To establish an advisory body, including independent experts with a global perspective, to keep the committee's knowledge updated in its dealings with regulators. 3. To continue investigations on other relevant issues. 4. To make regular reports on their activities and the implementation of their recommendations.

Recommendation 2: Reform the crisis management system A fundamental reexamination of the crisis management system must be made. The boundaries dividing the responsibilities of the national and local governments and the operators must be made clear. This includes: 1. A reexamination of the crisis management structure of the government. A structure must be established with a consolidated chain of command and the power to deal with emergency situations. 2. National and local governments must bear responsibility for the response to off-site radiation release. They must act with public health and safety as the priority. 3. The operator must assume responsibility for on-site accident response, including the halting of operations, and reactor cooling and containment.

Recommendation 3: Government responsibility for public health and welfare Regarding the responsibility to protect public health, the following must be implemented as soon as possible: 1. A system must be established to deal with long-term public health effects, including stress-related illness. Medical diagnosis and treatment should be covered by state funding. Information should be disclosed with public health and safety as the priority, instead of government convenience. This information must be comprehensive, for use by individual residents to make informed decisions. 2. Continued monitoring of hotspots and the spread of radioactive contamination must be undertaken to protect communities and the public. Measures to prevent any potential spread should also be implemented. 3. The government must establish a detailed and transparent program of decontamination and relocation, as well as provide information so that all residents will be knowledgable about their compensation options.

Recommendation 4: Monitoring the operators TEPCO must undergo fundamental corporate changes, including strengthening its governance, working towards building an organizational culture which prioritizes safety, changing its stance on information disclosure, and establishing a system which prioritizes the site. In order to prevent the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) from being used as a route for negotiating with regulatory agencies, new relationships among the electric power companies must also be established--built on safety issues, mutual supervision and transparency. 1. The government must set rules and disclose information regarding its relationship with the operators.

2. Operators must construct a cross-monitoring system to maintain safety standards at the highest global levels. 3. TEPCO must undergo dramatic corporate reform, including governance and risk management and information disclosure--with safety as the sole priority. 4. All operators must accept an agency appointed by the National Diet as a monitoring authority of all aspects of their operations, including risk management, governance and safety standards, with rights to on-site investigations.

Recommendation 5: Criteria for the new regulatory body The new regulatory organization must adhere to the following conditions. It must be: 1. Independent: The chain of command, responsible authority and work processes must be: (i) Independent from organizations promoted by the government (ii) Independent from the operators (iii) Independent from politics. 2. Transparent: (i) The decision-making process should exclude the involvement of electric power operator stakeholders. (ii) Disclosure of the decision-making process to the National Diet is a must. (iii) The committee must keep minutes of all other negotiations and meetings with promotional organizations, operators and other political organizations and disclose them to the public. (iv) The National Diet shall make the final selection of the commissioners after receiving third-party advice. 3. Professional: (i) The personnel must meet global standards. Exchange programs with overseas regulatory bodies must be promoted, and interaction and exchange of human resources must be increased. (ii) An advisory organization including knowledgable personnel must be established. (iii) The no-return rule should be applied without exception. 4. Consolidated: The functions of the organizations, especially emergency communications, decision-making and control, should be consolidated. 5. Proactive: The organizations should keep up with the latest knowledge and technology, and undergo continuous reform activities under the supervision of the Diet.

Recommendation 6: Reforming laws related to nuclear energy Laws concerning nuclear issues must be thoroughly reformed. 1. Existing laws should be consolidated and rewritten in order to meet global standards of safety, public health and welfare. 2. The roles for operators and all government agencies involved in emergency response activities must be clearly defined. 3. Regular monitoring and updates must be implemented, in order to maintain the highest standards and the highest technological levels of the international nuclear community. 4. New rules must be created that oversee the backfit operations of old reactors, and set criteria to determine whether reactors should be decommissioned.

Recommendation 7: Develop a system of independent investigation commissions A system for appointing independent investigation committees, including experts largely from the private sector, must be developed to deal with unresolved issues, including, but not limited to, the decommissioning process of reactors, dealing with spent fuel issues, limiting accident effects and decontamination.

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