In its fourth and final report, a 12 member government panel investigating the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster raised even more doubts about the preparedness of Japan’s nuclear reactors for severe accidents despite the recent restart of the Ohi reactors.
“TEPCO and the government had been bound by the myth that severe accidents would never occur at nuclear power plants and they had not considered accident risks as real. It was the fundamental problem,” the panel said in a final report.
“Safety Culture” Root Cause of Fukushima Disaster
The report’s findings center around the ill-preparedness of the government and the industry for an emergency, due to a lack of appreciation for a proactive approach towards nuclear safety.
“The fundamental problem lies in the fact that utilities, including TEPCO, and the government have failed to see the danger as reality as they were bound by a myth of nuclear safety and the notion that severe accidents do not happen at nuclear plants in our country,” said the 450-page report.
“Both the government and companies should establish a new philosophy of disaster prevention that requires safety and disaster measures against any massive accident and disaster … regardless of event probability,” the report said.
On-Site investigations limited
The panel members were prevented from investigating the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant due to the high radiation levels, which limited much of their on-site investigation.
The report says that they were unable to learn why the No. 2 reactor had discharged the largest amount of radioactive substances, and were also unable to determine why a hydrogen explosion had occurred at the No. 1 reactor.
TEPCO criticized for lack of preparedness
The report states that Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the plant, lacked a sense of crisis and imagination for possible scenarios outside of normal operating procedures. “They were trapped in the myth of nuclear safety and could not think of a crisis happening around them,” the report noted, also warning that employees of the utility are “not fully trained to think for themselves.”
The panel reported that TEPCO has not been forthcoming in the probe into the nuclear disaster, and states the utility needs to realize that Japan is prone to natural disasters and change its attitude toward disaster-preparedness.
“We still don’t perceive much enthusiasm in the accident investigation from” the utility, the report said. “TEPCO must take our findings sincerely and resolve the problems to achieve a higher level of safety culture across the company.”
Government ignored risks
The panel report also claims that the government had misled the public and failed to carry out established crisis management procedures. The report also strongly criticized both of Japan’s nuclear regulatory bodies, citing it found particularly problematic issues with how regulators released information to the public after the onset of the disaster.
The report stated that regulators at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency were overconfident in the myth of nuclear safety, the ability of the plants to overcome a natural disaster, and lacked sufficient expertise.
It said that it was “extremely inappropriate” for NISA’s then spokesman Koichiro Nakamura to indicate a possible meltdown soon on March 12th, but for the regulator to later turn around and deny the possibility later.
The report says that the regulators not only allowed power companies to join in critical safety discussions, but also ordered them to make up convincing reasons for not assuming prolonged power losses.
The report also blasts the industry’s “defense in depth” approach, saying that the utilities chose to selectively only defense against certain problems, rather than taking comprehensive safety measures.
The panel is urging the government to continue its probe. It says the cause of the accident has not been fully disclosed, and states the need for further study on the total amount of damage caused by the disaster.
Source: JiJi Press
Source: The Japan Times
Source: Japan Today
Source: JiJi Press
Source: JiJi Press