It Could Happen Here

Could the catastrophe that caused the nuclear disaster at Fukishima been predicted?  It not only could have it was. But Japan’s nuclear regulators and utilities not only ignored the predictions but supressed them.

But some insiders from Japan’s tightly knit nuclear industry have stepped forward to say that Tepco and regulators had for years ignored warnings of the possibility of a larger-than-expected tsunami in northeastern Japan, and thus failed to take adequate countermeasures, such as raising wave walls or placing backup generators on higher ground.

They attributed this to a culture of collusion in which powerful regulators and compliant academic experts looked the other way while the industry put a higher priority on promoting nuclear energy than protecting public safety. They call the Fukushima accident a wake-up call to Japan to break the cozy ties between government and industry that are a legacy of the nation’s rush to develop after World War II.

“March 11 exposed the true nature of Japan’s postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry, not the people,” said Shigeaki Koga, a former director of industrial policy at the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry, or METI, which both promotes and regulates the nuclear industry.

One of those whose warnings were ignored was Kunihiko Shimazaki, a retired professor of seismology at the University of Tokyo. Eight years ago, as a member of an influential cabinet office committee on offshore earthquakes in northeastern Japan, Mr. Shimazaki warned that Fukushima’s coast was vulnerable to tsunamis more than twice as tall as the forecasts of up to 17 feet put forth by regulators and Tepco.

Minutes of the meeting on Feb. 19, 2004, show that the government bureaucrats running the committee moved quickly to exclude his views from debate as too speculative and “pending further research.” None of the other 13 academics on the committee objected. Mr. Shimazaki’s warnings were not even mentioned in the committee’s final report two years later. He said the committee did not want to force Tepco to make expensive upgrades at the plant.

“They completely ignored me in order to save Tepco money,” said Mr. Shimazaki, 65.

But it’s different here in the US, right?  Wrong! (via The Agonist)

Transcript available at The Center for Investigative Reporting.  The same story, the regulators are captives of the nuclear industry placing millions of Americans in danger.

Cross posted at Newshoggers.