Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Fukushima Reports: Or, Whom Do I Trust?

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the investigation commission set up by the Diet, issued its 600+ page report on the Fukushima Accident on July 5. Yesterday, on July 23, the Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations (ICANPS), the government commission, issued its final 800+ page report. Beyond what I am sure are sensible recommendations that the reports offer, there is a lot of attention being paid to the following questions:

1) Did TEPCO management consider the withdrawal of all personnel from Fukushima Daiichi? 2) Did Prime Minister Kan’s interventions hamper the emergency response efforts?

The two questions are related. If the answer to the first question is yes, then Prime Minister Kan arguably saved Japan from an even worse fate by insisting that TEPCO hold its ground. That presumably would make up for any obstacles that Kan’s interventions ostensibly placed in the way of the broader response even the answer to the second questions was yes. I would ask a couple of related but different questions, though.

1) Did all the government figures who interacted with TEPCO management believe that it was considering the withdrawal of all personnel from Fukushima Daiichi? 2) Did Prime Minister Kan’s interventions magnify the scope of the accident or its human toll?

The answer to the first question appears to be an unequivocal yes, in which case Kan did make the right decision, and a potentially game-changing one at that. Besides, TEPCO’s defense turns on the difference between the words 退避, which it claims it used, and 引き揚げ, which it did not. This is a fine distinction to make to say the least—obscure, actually—particularly when TEPCO appears to have failed to mention its alleged intent to leave a skeleton crew behind. As for my second question, I’ve seen nothing so far that indicates that Kan’s interventions, however annoying and potentially dangerous they may have been, actually did serious harm.

My interest lies elsewhere. Specifically, was the reactor significantly damaged by earthquake itself even before the tsunami cut off all emergency power supplies? This, and not Kan’s share of the blame, should be the focus of attention in my view. After all, reviewing the prime minister’s role is but one, relatively small, part of the redesigning that the emergency preparedness and response framework. By contrast, our perception of the cause or causes of the damage to the reactors determines the extent of safety measures necessary to maintain the risk of meltdown within acceptable proportions and indeed whether some reactors can be reactivated at all. The ICANPS report concludes that the earthquake itself did not cause the damage, while the NAIIC report does not discard the possibility.

So who are we to believe? The memberships of the two bodies are remarkably similar, each consisting of scientists and engineers representing the relevant disciplines, one science writer, legal professionals, a retired diplomat, and a Fukushima representative. They each also list a couple of senior technical advisors. But ICANPS goes further and lists eight scientists and engineers in three teams that investigated specific issues in detail, one of which appears to have done the technical work that led to the conclusion that the tsunami was the sole cause of the release of radioactive material including the eventual meltdown. With that, I think that I’ll wait for the jury of their peers, unless someone actually pays me to read the full reports. (And yes, I am aware that there are yet another two. Hmm, I think I’m going to ask B--- G---------. for…)

1 comment:

Mark said...

To answer your question about why North Korea has taken on a Japanese flavor recently, I see two possibilities. It could be a pathetic, desperate attempt to convince others that Japan really controls them. Or it could be a signal that North Korea wants to move closer to Japan. If it is a signal, it is a pathetic, desperate signal. And probably a fake signal.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what has been happening to me, Japan has been using me to disclose the truth in an effort to pressure others into cracking down on North Korea. This strategy has proved effective as North Korea has bowed down without even a single additional sanction placed upon them. In bowing down, North Korea has proven they really are the stooge of the West. For if they weren’t, they could have easily told the public the truth themselves. That would have decimated the West. That would have proven that North Korea was the strong country they claimed to be. But they didn’t do that. They wanted to appease their masters, the West. And so they began acting all meek and humble. This had the important effect of giving the West an excuse to try to torture me into submission. With North Korea restrained, Japan lost one of their excuses to have me tell the public the truth.

Nevertheless, Japan is still busy using me to publish all sorts of things that other governments want kept secret. Over the past several days, I have been writing about why North Korea is the stooge of the West. This has apparently made North Korea very angry. In the past few days, North Korea has begun threatening to change their position on the nuclear issue. I guess that means they might detonate a nuclear weapon. Here, again, they are working with the West. They are giving the West an excuse to torture me more.

You may be wondering what I think about all this. I think this is awful.

You Japanese officials should know that while your predecessors may have honor, you have none. Convincing my government to tell me your secrets while allowing them to torture me and watching poor people around the world die in an effort to make yourselves rich is the very opposite of honorable behavior.

I demand that you immediately come forward with the truth.

Nevertheless, if you insist on being cowards I will continue to fight for the truth, accountability, and human rights. If you are too cowardly to tell the public the truth, you can keep telling me the truth and I will tell the public the truth.