Expert panel claims Fukushima nuclear crisis was preventable

A Japanese expert panel on July 5 issued a report claiming that the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was preventable. In the 641-page document the panel claims that the accident was not caused solely by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, but the inability of the government, regulators and the Fukushima Daiichi plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), to act quickly enough to prevent the disaster. Among the criticized was also the then-Prime Minster Naoto Kan who resigned last year after a widespread criticism of his handling of the natural disaster and Fukushima nuclear crisis. The experts claimed that regulators have failed to adopt global safety standards that could have prevented the crisis.

In June more than 1,300 people filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO for the March 2011 crisis and for the plaintiffs’ resulting radiation. The complaint named as defendants Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of TEPCO, Masataka Shimizu, the former president of the company, and Haruki Madarame, the chief of the Nuclear Safety Commission, along with 30 other executives. In March, the executives of the company faced another complaint filed by a group of shareholders in the amount of $67 billion for similar claims. They claimed that the company failed to take appropriate measure to mitigate damages in the event of an earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

From Jurist, July 5. Used with permission.

See our last post on the ongoing Fukushima disaster.

  1. Does Fukushima study help or hurt?
    We are certainly rooting for the 1,300 radiation-affected Japanese who are suing TEPCO and the government, and it seems this report could give them a boost. But the notion that the disaster was “preventable” strikes us as propaganda for the nuclear industry. The simple reality is that human beings are fallible, which is why it is a really bad idea to have technology with such inherently high stakes in the event of error, laxity or corruption. Worse, it seems that Kan is being scapegoated, which strikes us as a little convenient since he just had the courage to call for Japan to abandon nuclear power—at a time when the government was pressuring localities to accept reactors being started up again…

  2. Fukushima radiation: worse than they want you to think

    Two very ominous news clips, in quick success. First this, from BBC News, Oct. 25:

    Levels of radioactive contamination in fish caught off the east coast of Japan remain raised, official data shows.

    It is a sign that the Dai-ichi power plant continues to be a source of pollution more than a year after the nuclear accident.

    About 40% of fish caught close to Fukushima itself are regarded as unfit for humans under Japanese regulations.

    The respected US marine chemist Ken Buesseler has reviewed the data in this week’s Science journal.

    He says there are probably two sources of lingering contamination.

    “There is the on-going leakage into the ocean of polluted ground water from under Fukushima, and there is the contamination that’s already in the sediments just offshore,” he told BBC News.

    Prof Buesseler is affiliated to the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

    His evaluation covers a year’s worth of data gathered by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

    Next, a press release from Greenpeace, Oct. 23, grimly entitled “Official radiation monitoring stations in Fukushima unreliable”:

    Following new radioactive contamination checks in Fukushima City and the heavily contaminated Iitate [village] last week, Greenpeace has found that official monitoring stations systematically underestimate the radiation risks for the population, and that the Government’s decontamination work remains patchy, misdirected, and insufficient, with evacuated areas receiving greater attention than heavily populated ones.

    More than 75% of the 40 government monitoring posts checked by Greenpeace in Fukushima City showed lower radiation levels than their immediate surroundings, with contamination levels within 25 metres of the posts up to six times higher than at the posts themselves.

    “Official monitoring stations are placed in areas the authorities have decontaminated, however, our monitoring shows that just a few steps away the radiation levels rise significantly,” said Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International radiation expert. “We fear that these stations give the public a false sense of security.”

    “Decontamination can make a significant difference to radiation levels, but there seems to be little progress in the cleanup work, and many hot spots remain throughout Fukushima City,” said Teule. “Low hanging fruit, such as the decontamination of children’s playgrounds and other areas needed to protect the most vulnerable, have not progressed sufficiently despite more than a year and a half passing since the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.”

    Greenpeace also checked areas in Iitate, where the government has divided the community into different levels of risk in order to prepare for residents to return after decontamination. The radiation monitoring team found that the cleanup in the trial decontamination area of Kusano village has so far been insufficient, with radiation levels up to 5 microSieverts per hour (uSv/h) recorded in a residential area. Greenpeace also found hotspots of 13 uSv/h at a factory that was allowed to resume operations in September 2012, and 9 uSv/h at the entrance to a nearby residence.

    A report on Digital Journal informs us that Japan’s permissible limit for public exposure is 0.23 microsieverts per hour