One year after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, an independent investigation panel has highlighted the country's failures in disaster planning and crisis management for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The article, out now in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, shows that agencies were thoroughly unprepared for the cascading nuclear disaster, following a tsunami that should have been anticipated.
The Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation established an independent investigation panel to review how the government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), and other key actors responded during the disaster. The foundation's chairman, Yoichi Funabashi, and staff director of the investigation panel, Kay Kitazawa, explain the reasons behind the lack of disaster preparation; their findings are based on interviews with nearly 300 people involved in the accident, including then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Their article highlights how Kan secretly instructed Shunsuke Kondo, chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), to draw up a "worst case scenario" for the nuclear accident as the crisis deepenedthat is, six increasingly drastic scenarios that would play out as various systems at the nuclear plant failed. The panel obtained a copy of this plan and the authors present an excerpt in their article in the Bulletin. The most extreme scenario would have involved evacuation of all residents living within 170 km or more of the Fukushima plant, and, depending on the wind direction, could have meant evacuating the 30 million residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
According to the investigation, the tsunami could and should have been anticipated. Earlier research on the Jogan tsunami of 869 AD showed that high water levels should not have been considered "unprecedented" along the Japanese coastline where Fukushima is located. Tepco's own nuclear energy division u
|Contact: Jayne Fairley|