Mar 24, 2013

The Accident of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plants and the Essence of Failure

Although it is two years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the accident of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants has not yet finished.

Many reports and books about this accident have been published in these two years and recently I read several of them. I basically agree with the report of the NAIIC (The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission), and if you want to know more about this accident, you should read the executive summary of this report.

This report pointed out about the root causes of this accident as follows.

The operator (TEPCO), the regulatory bodies (NISA and NSC) and the government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements—such as assessing the probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a serious radiation release.

From TEPCO’s perspective, new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits. That was enough motivation for TEPCO to aggressively oppose new safety regulations and draw out negotiations with regulators via the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC). The regulators should have taken a strong position on behalf of the public, but failed to do so. As they had firmly committed themselves to the idea that nuclear power plants were safe, they were reluctant to actively create new regulations.

I completely agree with this remark.

Apparently TEPCO and the regulatory bodies knew the vulnerability of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants to tsunami before the earthquake, but they did nothing about it. The safety regulation of nuclear plants were based on the premise that the leakage of radiation from the site of nuclear plants could be prevented, so they didn’t prepare for such a severe accident.

I wrote about “the nuclear village” in the entry “Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?” 

The sub-government, which consists of some politicians, bureaucrats, electrical power companies, nuclear industries and specialists in nuclear power, has been controlling the nuclear policy in Japan, and Japanese people have almost no influence over it. A "Sub-government" is a group, usually consisting of politicians, bureaucrats and special interests, which controls public policy in a particular area in order to pursue their own interests. The "Military-industry complex" in the USA is a typical sub-government. The sub-government of the nuclear industry in Japan is called "the nuclear village."

I’ve read the book “the Essence of Failure: the Study of the Japanese Army in the Light of Organizational Theory,” which is about the cause of failure of the Japanese army in the Pacific War. I was surprised that the problems of the Japanese army, which were pointed out in this book, were so common with the problems of “the nuclear village” in this accident.

The officers in the Japanese army placed more value on their personal relationships than their organization goals, so they often couldn’t make a rational decision, which would be disadvantageous to some of them. They had been covering up for each other, and in the end they lost the Pacific war.

In “the nuclear village,” they couldn’t make a new safety regulation in order to prepare a sever accident, because the “new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits,” and in the end they caused this accident.

The Fukushima fifty and Masao Yoshida, the general manager of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants, were quite brave. Even though they made mistakes, I think that it couldn’t be helped, because the site was really confused. The point was lack of preparation.

In the book “the Essence of Failure,” the words of Georgi Zhukov, who was a commander of the Soviet army, were quoted.
In the Japanese army, sergeants are tough and brave, and junior officers make a fanatically tough fight, but senior officers are ineffective.

Nothing has changed.

This time we, the Japanese people, should learn a lesson from this accident and MUST NOT do the same thing again.

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