Last year, after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, the Japanese parliament requested an independent report on the causes of the disaster. The 10 members of the report committee were not connected with the nuclear industry or the government bureaucracy and included distinguished scientists, doctors, lawyers, and even a science journalist.
The resulting report, released this week, is damning. It was already more or less known that the disaster was at least in part caused by negligence on the part of the utility company TEPCO and the failure of government agents to enforce safety regulation, but the committee has had access to all of the documents and resources involved, and they write that even given the unusual force of the tsunami that struck the plant, had regulations been enforced, the nuclear meltdown would not have happened:
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.”
The report, which you can read here, is heartbreaking. It includes an eloquent foreword from the chairman, Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, in which he writes:
For all the extensive detail it provides, what this report cannot fully convey—especially to a global audience—is the mindset that supported the negligence behind this disaster.
What must be admitted—very painfully—is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” 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.
Insightful, but we think that whatever cultural factors the disaster may have had, the Japanese, and everyone else, should not think Japan has a monopoly on lethal ineptitude. Collusion between government and industry is a real threat in many nations around the world, and it is dangerous to assume that what happened at Fukushima could not happen anywhere else.