Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis was a preventable disaster resulting from “collusion” among the government, regulators and the plant operator, an expert panel said yesterday, wrapping up an inquiry into the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Damage from the huge earthquake on March 11 last year, and not just the ensuing tsunami, could not be ruled out as a cause of the accident, the panel added, a finding that could have serious implications as Japan seeks to bring idled reactors back on line.
The panel also criticized the response of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), regulators and then-Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, who quit last year after criticism of his handling of a natural disaster that developed into a man-made crisis.
“The ... 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,” the panel said in an English summary of a 641-page report.
Regulators, it said, had been reluctant to adopt global safety standards that could have helped prevent the disaster in which reactors melted down, spewing radiation and forcing about 150,000 people from their homes, many of whom will never return.
“Across the board, the Commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organisation that deals with nuclear power. We found a disregard for global trends and a disregard for public safety,” the panel said.
The panel’s finding that seismic damage may well have played a role could affect the restart of reactors that were taken offline, mostly for maintenance and safety checks, in the months since Fukushima.
“We have proved that it cannot be said that there would have been no crisis without the tsunami,” Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and panel member, said in the report.
Experts have said that an active fault may lie under Kansai Electric Power Co’s Ohi plant in western Japan, whose No. 3 unit began supplying electricity to the grid early yesterday. Ohi’s No. 4 unit will come on line later this month after the government approved the restarts to avoid a power shortage.
“This means that all of Japan’s reactors are vulnerable and require retro-fitting, calling into question the hasty decision of the [Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko] Noda Cabinet to restart reactors before getting the lessons of Fukushima,” said Jeffrey Kingston, Asia studies director at Temple University in Tokyo.
The report by the experts — one of three panels looking into the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster — follows a six-month investigation involving more than 900 hours of hearings and interviews with more than 1,100 people, the first such inquiry of its kind.
Many of the shocking details of the disaster, including TEPCO’s failure to prepare for a big tsunami and a chaotic response by the utility and government, have already been made public.
Critics have long argued that cosy ties among utilities, nuclear regulators and lawmakers were key reasons for the crisis.
In an effort to repair tattered public trust, the government will in a few months establish a more independent nuclear watchdog that will then draft new safety rules.
The report pointed to numerous missed opportunities to take steps to prevent the disaster, citing lobbying by the nuclear power companies, as well as a “safety myth” mindset that permeated the industry and the regulatory regime as among the reasons for the failure to be prepared.
“As a result of inadequate oversight, the SA [Severe Accident] countermeasures implemented in Japan were practically ineffective compared to the countermeasures in place abroad, and actions were significantly delayed as a result,” it said.
TEPCO came under heavy criticism in the report, partly for putting cost-cutting steps ahead of safety as nuclear power became less profitable over the years.
“While giving lip service to a policy of ‘safety first,’ in actuality, safety suffered at the expense of other management priorities,” the team said.
In a report on its internal investigation issued last month, TEPCO denied responsibility, saying the big “unforeseen” tsunami was to blame.
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
ROAD TO HISTORY: When Lee Teng-hui joined the KMT, the likelihood of a Taiwanese becoming ROC president, much less its first directly elected one, was hard to imagine Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was born on Jan. 15, 1923, in the farming community of Sanshi Village, Taihoku Prefecture — now New Taipei City’s Sanzhi District (三芝) — during the Japanese colonial era, and rose to become mayor of Taipei and not only the Republic of China’s (ROC) first Taiwan-born president, but its first directly elected one as well. Educated in the Japanese educational system of the time, Lee, who spoke Japanese, Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Mandarin and English, won a scholarship to Kyoto Imperial University, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He earned a bachelor’s